Giving well is not easy. While philanthropy may look like it’s just “cutting checks,” donors have a lot to consider when making gifts.

Donors are often plagued by an overabundance of information that make the equation extremely complex—which is why resources like American Philanthropic’s “Little Book on Giving Well: 8 questions every donor should ask” are so valuable for thoughtful givers.

  1. Why do you give? The first step is to develop a “why” for your giving. Donors should work to encapsulate their “philosophy of giving into a few sentences or paragraphs.” And this statement should be specific and should reflect the core components of your identity as a giver.
  2. People before data. When trying to discern which organizations to give to, data can be helpful—but don’t let it consume your giving strategy.
  3. Hubris, local knowledge, and responsive giving. The relational nature of giving should also make donors think about where they give their money. Many givers like the idea of having a “big impact.” They want to end world hunger or build churches in Africa. These goals may be laudable but, nonetheless, “we must note the monumental arrogance of the person (or foundation) who, from altitudes of 30,000 feet, claims to know what will really help societies on the other side of the globe.”
  4. Trusting and ceding control. Finally, a word on how you give. Among its eight questions, “The Little Book on Giving Well” addresses this very important one: “Should I give general-operations donations or project-specific donations?” This boils down to “whether or not you trust the organization enough to cede control of how your gift is spent.” This, of course, ties back to the relational nature of giving. A donor might ask herself, “does it really make sense to give money to an organization I don’t trust?” Well, not really. The most common example of this is giving to your beloved alma mater. You may love your alma mater, but can you trust it given the current trends in higher education? If not, you probably shouldn’t give a general-operations donation to your alma mater. But there may well be other organizations that you know and trust and that are advancing similar issues that you care about.

Read the full article about considerations for thoughtful donors by James Davenport at Philanthropy Daily.