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Holiday Update: Giving Special

The following is a cross-post by Dvorit Mausner, Hope Neighbor, and Greg Ulrich of Hope Consulting. You can read the original here.

Money for Good research indicates that a nonprofit organization’s sharpened focus on effectiveness can be critical to its fundraising and donor engagement… But what if outcomes information is too dry or overwhelming for certain individuals? (We know that the majority of donors does not typically research nonprofits before making charitable contributions.) Especially for those donors, inspiration to support high-performing nonprofits might happen when effectiveness research feels fun and rewarding. What if investigations were special? Below, the team from Hope Consulting, co-authors of More Money for More Good, write about the positive effect of putting some additional care into giving this season, with comparisons to shopping for holiday presents. In the comments, tell us how you think differently about giving gifts during the holidays.


At Hope Consulting, we often focus on the facts and statistics behind charitable giving. Today for Giving Tuesday, a celebration of philanthropy, we want to personally share how we think about the parallels between giving gifts to loved ones and making charitable donations in the spirit of the holiday season. Hope shares the story of her dear father, Bob. Her father’s favorite moments are those spent with family and friends. Material possessions are utterly unimportant to Hope’s father. As a consequence, Bob’s holiday wish list tends towards the (very) ordinary. This year, Bob wrote: “Gifts: 1. Long john tops. Size to follow. 2. Parker jotter pen with stainless steel cap and black bottom.”
Because Hope loves her father (and knows that being cold does run in the Neighbor family), she will give her father long johns for Christmas. This gift will be perfectly acceptable. But – unlike the time she spent with her father this year – it will not be special. Greg tells us about a little extra effort he is making in giving a particular gift this year. His mother has a wingback chair from her grandmother. It is beat up and dirty, but has some very real, personal significance. Because of its tired state, it languished under a tarp in the garage for years until Greg decided to have it reupholstered in a fabric that he knows his mother will love. Greg’s mother will (hopefully!) be thrilled, not only because this old chair will look great again in her living room, but also because the gift will now evoke memories across four generations. It is more than an acceptable gift. It is special – for both of them. This dichotomy – between the acceptable and the special gift – is something that many of us feel. Some gifts we give because we need to, and sometimes we encounter the inspiration to spend extra time finding the perfect present. We might not realize that the same thing happens with our gifts to charity. In that context, we may not always make charitable gifts that are special, but it can be easy to give a gift with significant meaning for both the recipient and the donor.
Here are some steps we will take this holiday season to make special charitable gifts, and that you might consider in your own holiday giving:
  1. What causes do you care about? Spend a meal – alone or with your family – reflecting on what matters to you. Talk about ways that you can give with meaning.
  2. Go a bit deeper and discover which nonprofits best serve your favorite cause. There are over one million charities in the US, and they have different approaches and capabilities. Many resources can help you choose which organization/s to support. Make a difference by consulting GuideStar for information, reading expert reviews at Philanthropedia, or exploring nonprofit ratings at Charity Navigator.
  3. Follow up. Your gift is not the end, but the beginning of your relationship with a nonprofit you newly support. It is rewarding to get feedback on our charitable contributions, just as we learn if our holiday presents are appreciated and well used. The next time Greg visits his parents, he will notice if the reupholstered chair is in his mother’s living room (or back under the tarp in the garage)! Similarly, ask organizations how your money made a difference, and how the charity plans to continue improving its work in the future.
Your charitable giving can transform the world – more than long john tops or a recovered wingback chair ever will – and it only takes a bit of extra care and attention. We hope that you will join us in going beyond the acceptable this holiday season, to make charitable giving special.
With warm wishes for a happy (and charitable) holiday season,
Topics: Money For Good