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On Walking the Walk: Being a Better Donor

It’s December already – that time of year for cold weather, holiday spirit for those who celebrate, and the nonprofit end of year campaigns! It’s also the time of year that donating with your head, rather than your heart, tends to fly out the window.

Anisha Singh Anisha Singh

As a nonprofit professional, I have a unique view of the donor world. I believe in the GuideStar mission, and want donors to make better giving decisions before donating to nonprofits. Working for GuideStar as a strategy analyst allows me to see the importance of fundraising this time of year, and how hard it is for nonprofits to reach donors with effective giving campaigns.

At the same time, however, I’m also a donor, and therefore a target of many nonprofit donor campaigns. When I see that older person ringing a bell and asking for donations outside a mall, or when the local chain restaurant asks for a “Christmas spirit donation!” to a local campaign, it’s hard to say no without feeling like Scrooge McDuck. In fact, it’s hard to go anywhere this time of year without being solicited for a donation!

So, how do you manage both your own fundraising campaigns and your role as a donor? Here are a few tips:

Always be polite

superdonorRemember, those who asking for donations are just doing their jobs. They are passionate about the organizations they support, and are trying to get other people to be passionate as well. Nonprofits know that most people donate most during the holiday season, and that emotional appeals are most effective. That’s why children, older people, and hunky fireman outside of the DC metro are the most effective solicitors! Even though you may be annoyed and worn down by the constant asks, always be polite. If you cannot contribute, do not ignore them, or pretend you don’t see them by talking to your friend. Instead, make eye contact, wish them well, and continue on your way. Solicitors need the friendly encouragement and holiday cheer to keep up momentum and energy for those will say "Yes!" this giving season.

Have a good reason

Most of the time, if you cannot contribute, a simple “no, thank you” when someone asks for a donation will suffice. Occasionally, though, people ask for more detail. If that’s the case, be clear about your reasons without insulting them. In my case, I say that I like to research organizations online before donating, so I make a point to look up each organization and do my own due diligence screening. (Note: Please then make an effort to take out your phone, write down the name of the organization, and look them up on your mobile device, or when you get home!)

Use data to make your donation decisions

Use qualitative and quantitative data to make your donor decisions – stories as well as numbers. Take some time to check out the nonprofit’s website and look for transparency indicators like GuideStar Exchange participation levels.

Donate to effective organizations you care about

Not giving to nonprofits on the fly in no way gets you out of donating. Whether it’s during the month of December or other times of the year, make sure you are giving to effective, great organizations you are passionate about and who value your donation!

For more tips on how to be a Super Donor this time of year, see GuideStar’s infographic on picking the right charity and changing the world!

Anisha Singh is a strategy analyst at GuideStar. She splits her time between the Strategy Team, Finance Team, and Office of the President/CEO. Anisha is a graduate from Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in International Studies and Economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, finding the best restaurants in town, and annoying her brother with her philanthropy chatter. You can reach Anisha at

Topics: Charitable Giving