Last year, individual donors gave $280 billion to 1.5 million non-profits. The vast majority of Americans claim to care about charitable effectiveness, yet only 15% spend even two hours a year investigating how to achieve meaningful impact. You may not have the resources of Bill and Melinda Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, but by taking just five minutes a week research your giving opportunities, you can make a bigger difference with your dollars.

Here are five ways to be a smarter donor:

  1. No time to do your own investigating? Then pick an online giving platform committed to research, transparency and measuring impact. Sites such as,, and indicate whether charities are legitimate and how much is spent on operations; but figures like revenue or overhead costs are no indication of impact. Good platforms include or
  2. Want to focus on small organizations making a difference in your community? Then call the development director to discuss how you can invest in what most charities struggle to fund: core costs.
  3. Do you find yourself making too many small gifts to a wide variety of charities? Then take the time this holiday season to focus on one specific cause — researching evidence is a great family bonding activity.

Read the full article about ways to give with impact this holiday season by Sylvia Brown at