Many of us have a need to give back to our communities. Giving back provides us the opportunity to connect with others and put our own needs on the back burner, while we focus on others. In these selfie-obsessed times we know there are plenty of us who still understand the importance of charity involvement.
However, it can be hard to connect with the causes that mean the most to you. Especially if you’re new to a community or don’t know the right people, it can be hard to find the right organization for you. Sometimes, the organizations that need the most help rely on word of mouth and connections to drive donations and find volunteers. They don’t always have large social presences and their websites can sometimes be the hardest to find, if you don’t know the exact name.
So how can you find the charity that’s a best fit for you? Here are five ways:
1. Define Your Passion
This seems obvious, but it can be overwhelming in even a small community to narrow down the right charity to lend your support. What are the causes that are the most tied to what you care about?
Perhaps you enjoy athletics? Consider a youth sports league for under-served kids.
Do you love to cook? A local soup kitchen may be the place for you. There’s a great organization, for example in Charlotte, N.C. that provides restaurant skills and jobs to people who are trying rebuild. Or perhaps you have a penchant for health care. An organization that supports the uninsured may be a great place to start.
Think of what you’re passionate about. Think about who you want to serve. Then start your research to find the right organization.
2. Tap Your Network
Your friends and co-workers can be great resources for tapping into charity organizations. They likely have similar interests and could direct you to causes that you too would want to involve yourself with. When people ask us about what causes we care about, we love telling them about the wonderful organizations we support. Ask your network. They’ll be more than willing to share.
3. Leverage Community Resources
There are several organizations that provide channels of funding and support to community organizations. Once you’ve narrowed down your interests, the United Way can be a great resource for you to connect with the right organization that needs help. Local “Hands-On” organizations (e.g., Hands On Charlotte) are another valuable connection. These groups provide channels of help to needy organizations. Their staff and volunteers are tapped into the nonprofit community and can save you a lot of time in researching and connecting with organizations. Often, one phone call can connect you to the right cause.
4. Maximize Your Impact
It can be frustrating for donors who feel like they’re just a number when supporting a large organization. Especially if you don’t have a lot of disposable income, you want to feel like the money you give is tied to making an impact. There are several online resources that can help provide important information about how you’re money will be used. Charity Navigator and GuideStar are two online databases that can help provide you with valuable information about the organization you’re considering. If you want to ask the questions yourself, here are some key questions you can ask to ensure your money is making an impact and it’s going to a charity that’s a good fit for you:
- How will my donation be used?
- What percentage of your money goes directly to the cause? (According to X, a good percentage is…)
- How can $X make a difference? For example, if you can only give $20, it would be nice to know what that $20 is going to be able to do. For example, $20 can pay for a portion of a child’s summer camp tuition, cleats to a kid who wants to play football at camp, etc.)
You will know you have the right charity partner for your coveted funds if you feel good about the answers.
5. Think Back
Think back to your own childhood. Was there an organization that played a particularly important role in your life? Maybe you took advantage of your local Boys and Girls Club. Maybe you played in the YMCA sports camps. Or, perhaps you leveraged a community tutor to help you with some courses that caused you to struggle. We tend to forget those organizations we used as kids. Those very same nonprofits are likely still doing great work in the community. Find a local group that’s doing the same type of work that helped you. It will feel great to give back to a group that gave to you. The organization will appreciate your ability to bring the support full circle.
When it comes to finding the right charity for you, nothing is more important than your passion for the cause. Giving back will feel much better when you’re invested in the cause. Figure out the causes that mean the most to you and then build the connection. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.