Monday, 30 November 2015

Find a charity that's right for you

Are you planning to make a charitable donation this holiday season? I hope so. According to Imagine Canada, 60% of Canadians will give $5 billion between now and the end of the near. Given that Canadians give $13 billion annually to charities and non-profits, that means that 40% of Canadian charitable giving will occur in the last six weeks of the year.

I hope you will make your charitable donation for the right reasons. Imagine Canada has offered five key strategies to maximize the impact of your charitable giving. Yes, your giving, your philanthropy, can make a huge difference.

First, align your gift with your passion. Ask yourself what kind of a world you want and find a charitable organization that meets your vision. If world of community hunger concerns you, a food charity might be something to support. If a family member has dementia, a health-related charity might be what you are looking for. Do some research and find out more. Engage the charity. See if it matches your vision and make your gift.

Second, model giving for your children and peers. This matters. Children learn to give, not because they make a decision for themselves but because their parents modelled it for them. If you want your children to be generous, model generosity. Talk about giving over a meal. Let them know that you support a cause and invite them to join you in giving.

Third, focus on impact, not overhead. There has been a lot of talk in our community, about the overhead of charitable organizations. But this bottom line thinking is the wrong way to look at things. If a charitable organization takes a percentage of donations (and make no mistake, all charities do) to fund their work, ask what else they do. Is their work more effective because they can do more? Are those fees returned to the community? Does it enhance their mission as an organization?

Fourth, be flexible in your donation. All of us have limitations in our giving, but I believe what really limits us is our thinking. We can’t give to every request, but we can support what we believe in, no matter what the amount is. And those amounts can change over the years. There may be times in our lives when we can make a big donation. Sometimes it may only be a dollar or two. Or we might give time to a cause, instead. It is the act of giving, not the size of the gift that matters.

Finally, leadership matters. If a charitable organization is well led and well managed, has good governance practices and is transparent and accountable, it is worthy of support. Look for things like audited financial statements, properly filed T3010 returns with Canada Revenue and a willingness to openly answer your questions.

When you make that charitable donation this Christmas, make it with confidence. Know your gift is doing what you want it to do. Ask questions. Model generosity and philanthropy. And know that in your charitable giving, your gift is making our community and the world a better place.

Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.