The desire to give back is rooted deep within the spirit of humanity. There is evidence of giving dating back to the building of the pyramids in Egypt, and the ancient Hebrews issued tithes to help poor people. The word philanthropy — love of humankind — came into use around 500 BC in the story Prometheus Bound.

The reasons for giving are many — from tradition to empathy or identification with a specific cause. Whatever the motivations, most giving takes place at the end of the year, the time when we take stock of our lives and what we are grateful for and share our blessings with people and causes we care about most.

The Center for Strategic Philanthropy (CSP) is known for our work with families, foundations, and organizations that want to use their resources to make a long-term, sustainable impact. Our work is rooted in a robust biomedical portfolio and has grown over the years to include philanthropy around social causes such as education, global AgriTech, green energy, and environmental conservation.

In guiding the philanthropic partners who come to us, we encourage strategic giving rooted in values that include rigor, equity, community, learning, and transformation. We help donors do the homework needed to understand an issue area’s needs and where their resources can make the most significant impact. We also encourage them to be patient and tolerant of risk because social returns take time to manifest. Impactful giving is about looking at all the tools at a donor’s disposal and applying them at the right points to create the changes we wish to see in the world.

Donors of all levels, even small-scale donors like most of us, can be strategic and impactful and create a more equitable world. This means channeling resources carefully. It also means branching out from supporting nonprofits you’re familiar with or tied to your network.  All it takes is a little introspection, research, and planning.

Many companies encourage their staff to take part in an employee giving campaign. Ideally, those choices should be grounded in an examination of company values and priorities, and research into the organizations and causes they choose to support. Individuals often go a step further, reaching further into their hearts to give even more. For those who might also want to give in ways that address the challenges the world is facing, whether those challenges are social, environmental, health-focused, or something else, this holiday season, the CSP team is offering a few tips to help guide your giving.

These tips will encourage taking steps to identify the causes you care about most, doing your homework, understanding charity ratings, and assessing impact. This strategy will advance your philanthropic ideals when you exchange gifts and offer time, talent, treasures, and ties to benefit the greater good.

  1. Take a moment to reflect on the causes you care about. What causes are you drawn to, and why? What kind of impact do you want to make in the world?
  2. Do some reading. Candid, Charity Watch, and Charity Navigator each provide an independent perspective and data on many nonprofits.
  3. Research nonprofit impact. Most nonprofit websites have information on their achievements and track record.
  4. Volunteer at or attend charity events to demonstrate support. Your energy and presence are incredibly validating. If you can dedicate more time to a nonprofit, consider serving on the board or volunteering in another capacity.
  5. Offer assistance in ways that interest you. Consider pro bono consulting or advising, providing guidance and other help to your chosen organization as needed.
  6. Donate unrestricted financial contributions to help generate meaningful progress for a nonprofit and its social impact objective. All organizations need money to operate.
  7. Make connections among your most important contributions by tapping into your network. Forging new relationships can open the door for limitless possibilities for an organization’s growth and impact.
  8. Give gifts that align with the world you want to achieve. There are gifts that advance fair trade or eco-friendly practices, support small business, or improve animal welfare.
  9. Strive for an equitable world. Consider branching out from supporting nonprofits you already know or tied to your network, which could lack diversity.
  10. Give a little more if you can. Nonprofits are feeling the punch of inflation, and funds aren’t going as far as they were a year ago.

Most people expect, and therefore take steps to create, a certain kind of magic during the holidays. On a parallel track, we can also take a few steps to make holiday giving strategic and impactful for the longer term.