Opinion: Make your charitable giving count

By Marjory Kaplan

President and CEO

Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego

The end of the year is one of our favorite times at the Jewish Community Foundation.

It’s a time when the thoughts of many turn to giving.

For these individuals, the decision to give is easy. The difficulty comes with making choices among the dozens of nonprofit appeals that arrive this time of year, all asking for support for worthwhile causes, all making compelling cases to give to them.

How to decide among them in the new year? It’s a question the hundreds of donors who partner with the Foundation for their giving ask us each day.

There are a number of things to consider as you narrow down your many options, which is why we felt the time was right to update our “Top Five Tips for Giving.”

Originally created to assist in giving choices during the recession, these tips will help donors make the most impact at year-end.

Tip 1 — Focus

With so many important causes and extraordinary organizations, it’s imperative to use laser-like focus. Begin narrowing down by thinking about which issues most ignite your passions, which bring you the highest level of meaning and joy.

Then, focus not just on the issues, but also on the impact. What results do you want to see and which nonprofits can attain it?

Next, focus on the size of your gift and the number you will make. While a larger gift to one or two organizations would go far for those particular causes, with so many worthy nonprofits in our community you might prefer to give a number of smaller gifts to several organizations. Small gifts can have large returns. The important thing is to be sure the gift will make a difference for the nonprofit in some way.

Finally, think not just about the organizations that need the dollars right now, but also those that will use your gift in strategic and innovative ways. Consider organizations that have thoughtful and effective leadership, those that will use support to advance their missions most effectively and with the highest level of integrity.

Tip 2 — Give in a Way that Matters To You

What kind of change do you want to produce with your gift? You have some choices.

Your first is to get creative. Each day at the foundation we encounter examples of members of the community turning imagination into impact. Do you support a nonprofit serving spouses of deployed military? You can help pay for the couple to go out to dinner for the night, complete with a babysitter. Want to support those returning to the workplace? What about contributing to professional attire for their job interviews?

For those who want to use their money more practically, consider investing in the nonprofit’s long-term stability. It might not feel as compelling, but these nonprofits must keep the lights on, sustain their staff, and use appropriate technology. Consider providing unrestricted support to build infrastructure and promote long-term sustainability.

Tip 3 — Collaborate

Just as we at the foundation encourage nonprofits to combine resources, donors can also collaborate to maximize the impact of their gifts. Join with others to support a program. Encourage friends and associates to give. Advocate for the needs of your favorite organizations. We often underestimate the power of our voices.

Tip 4 — Communicate

The spirit of giving doesn’t keep nonprofits from the anxiety that comes with running an organization during these uncertain economic times. If you plan to support an organization now and into the future, let them know. Communicating your intentions can help make these uncertain times more certain for a nonprofit. That could be the greatest gift of all.

Tip 5 — Keep Giving Levels Strong

We stand at a time of year, and a time in our economic history, when the community needs us like never before. Consider what you can give during this time. Then consider if you can give even more.

According to Jewish thought, when you change one life, you change the entire world.

You have the power to make a real difference. Use it well.

Last year, the Jewish Community Foundation awarded and facilitated almost $68 million in 5,000 separate grants — more than any other organization in the region.



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