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How to Give with Your Head & Heart in 4 Easy Steps

Last week while I was on my way to grab lunch here in Washington, D.C, a nice gentleman in a blue polo approached me. He identified himself with Charity X and started to methodically solicit a donation from me for his organization. “Without your support, our [beneficiaries] won’t be able to [benefit.] Won’t you help?”

His emotional plea for a donation was passionate yet hopeful, and went straight to my heart. So why didn’t I make a contribution?

Just as I wouldn’t buy a TV without doing some online research or looking to advice from experts, I hesitate before donating to an unknown charity until I can utilize that other organ so essential to making a smart giving decision—my brain. In order to get the most from your charitable donations, you must think both classically and romantically—with the head and the heart, respectively.

That’s where GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles enter the scene. While our data provides quantitative metrics such as organizational financial histories, helping you ensure your preferred organizations make the most out of donation dollars, our Charting Impact questions and GreatNonprofits organizational reviews provide stories on less easily measured organizational aspects. Our profiles are designed to incorporate both your emotional desire to donate to causes you care about most and your logical desire to give to charities that will make the most of your money.

“Give you with your head, not just your heart,” is something you will hear regularly from our president and CEO, Jacob Harold. So just how exactly do you go about doing that?

  1. Pick the cause with your heart …

    Maybe it’s finding a cure for your nephew’s rare disease. Maybe it’s saving our planet from climate change. Whatever the cause(s) may be, that’s where you should be sending your money.

    My dog, Kenzie

    How this looks: Strictly objectively speaking, of course, my dog Kenzie is the best dog in the world, and pains me to think about animals who don’t have homes and proper care. That’s why I know want to give to an animal welfare cause-area nonprofit. I live in Washington, D.C. and would like to find a local organization.

  2. And the organization with your head.

    Now it’s time to find a charity that can really make an impact with your money. Check out our five easy-to-follow steps that will take you down a simple path to better giving.

    How this looks: Using GuideStar’s search functionality, I narrow my lens by entering key phrases such as “Animal Welfare” and “Washington, D.C.” From there, I find Washington Animal Rescue League, an organization with a Gold level GuideStar Nonprofit Profile. This indicates that they are sharing large amounts of information in their profile—a clear indication of a commitment to transparency—which is key for determining their effectiveness toward accomplishing their mission.

    3. Proactively Seek Clarity

    When searching for the right charity for you, it is important to seek clarity from that organization. And this means not just finding clarity in how well an organization describes the problem it is tackling, but also clarity in how it’s uniquely positioned to solve the problem at hand. It’s easy to point fingers at issues that need addressing in our world today. It’s much more difficult for a nonprofit to articulate how it will actually address those issues.

    How this looks: I checked out the beta version of this organization’s GuideStar Nonprofit Profile. The second program listed, Medical Center, caught my eye. It turns out this organization runs the only medical center for low-income pet owners to get affordable veterinary services in the D.C. area. They even listed right up front that they cared for almost 7,000 pets last year with this program—quantitative and qualitative verification of impact all in one spot! Way to go, Washington Animal Rescue League!

    4. When in doubt, follow the experts’ advice.

    Our sister site, Philanthropedia, has lists of expert-recommended charities by cause area. It’s an effective and easy way to find charities that are making a difference today, working on 36 different causes ranging from at-risk youth to microfinancing.

    How this looks: I decided that I wanted to give locally at the beginning of my search. If I were looking on a national scale, however, I would review the Animal Welfare, Rights, & Protection section of Philanthropedia, which used recommendation from 169 experts in this specific cause area to come up with 15 outstanding animal welfare nonprofits.

    And there you have it. Using your head, your heart, and GuideStar, you can find the right charity in four easy steps! Who will you give to this holiday season?

    How to Give with your Head & Heart in 4 Easy Steps 2 Gabe Cohen

    The preceding post is by Gabe Cohen, GuideStar’s Director of Communications. Gabe implements and oversees strategic marketing and communications plans to advance GuideStar’s brand identity; broadens awareness of its programs and priorities; and increases the visibility of its programs and thought leadership across key stakeholder audiences. Leading GuideStar’s media relations efforts, Gabe has secured media placements in a range of national outlets such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, MSNBC, Yahoo!, Buzzfeed and Nonprofit Quarterly. Gabe is the marketing lead for major GuideStar initiatives including the Overhead Myth, GuideStar Profiles for Grant Applications, and encouraging nonprofits to update their GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles.

Topics: Charitable Giving