Philanthropy Blog: Charitable Giving in the New Year

January 03, 2018

As the new year dawns, like most of us, I am jumping in to my 2018 to-do list. The New Year is a time of resolutions, evaluating what was successful from last year and focusing on the areas that need improvement in the new year. Taking all of the energy and excitement of year- end giving into the new year brings the opportunity to evaluate what you’d like to do more of in 2018.

Evaluate What Charitable Activities Worked

January is a great time to evaluate what you liked best about your 2017 gifts and plan for your 2018 charitable activities. Were there issues or organizations about which you’d like to learn more? Were there organizations where you think you could make a greater impact by pairing your charitable dollars with volunteering? Attending an organization’s event, or observing their work in progress, when the pressure of year-end is not so intense, could be a good way to deepen your understanding of their work. If you are interested in engaging your entire family in volunteerism, you can start in January by discussing issues you care about, researching where you might volunteer and how those issues or organizations could use your extra efforts. For example, you could organize a sock or coat drive for the winter months, collect toiletries or books to donate later in the year, or buy an extra canned good each week at the store or in advance of a big storm.

Evaluate What Parts of Your Charitable Giving Plan Need Improvement

If you felt that some of your charitable activities from last year could have been more effective, using the early part of the year to evaluate any changes will allow you to develop a stronger 2018 giving plan. Some of the strategies might be the same for the activities which went well. You could visit with an organization to learn more about their needs. Many organizations post wish-lists directly on their web sites, or through their social media channels. You can conduct your own research by reading credible sources on a topic of interest to educate yourself. For example, the Boston Indicators Project publishes research and reports based on more than 15 years of data collection and evaluation on topics ranging from education to housing and immigrant issues.

Plan for the Unexpected in Your Giving Budget

We find that a portion of many giving budgets each year will end up being allocated to emergency needs. Whether it’s a natural disaster like a flood or hurricane, or changes in social or political policies at home or abroad that lead to humanitarian or other emergency needs, planning for the unknown can (and we might argue should) be part of your roadmap for the year. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is a great resource to help donors both respond to immediate needs in the wake of a disaster, and also to plan for the long-term recovery support that many communities need to rebuild. Setting aside a portion of your giving budget each year for emergency needs can allow you to respond more quickly when those needs invariably arise.

Extended the Impact of Your Charitable Activities

You can harness a number of different tools and vehicles to make the impact you seek and effect change in the world. “Charitable” activities can involve more than giving. Many individuals and families consider how and where they shop, use values-based screening for their investments, and/or take advantage of shareholder advocacy or other investor-led strategies. Some donors find that taxable investments can help drive change more quickly and with greater impact. This is especially true for donors with resources who can invest in startup companies with technologies or products that address persistent societal problems. Still others choose to fund political campaigns, support candidates for office, or underwrite lobbying or advocacy efforts to further their social and community goals. Planning simultaneously for these strategies allows you to see them as a whole, rather than disconnected parts.

In the end, giving should be an activity that you find fulfilling and joyful. With the dawn of the new year, so much seems possible that didn’t a few short weeks ago. With a plan in place, you can march forward confidently into the new year. Happy New Year.

About the Author

Gioia Perugini is Associate Director, Family Office and Philanthropy Services at Hemenway & Barnes. She works with individuals, families, advisors, charitable trusts and foundations to provide a range of philanthropic and client services.

Gioia is a frequent speaker, writer and panelist on issues relevant to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. She also serves on a number of nonprofit boards.

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