Giving Compass' Take:

• Kris Putnam-Walkerly explains how donors can take five simple steps to more informed giving in order to be more effective.  

• Are you ready to take these steps in your giving? What timeframe can you commit to completing these steps in? 

• Learn about impact-driven philanthropy

If your giving strategy mainly consists of writing a check to a well-known organization and assuming it will be put to good use, it’s time to reassess your approach to maximize your efforts heading into the New Year. After all, there are more than 1.5 million charitable organizations in the United States and an estimated 10 million worldwide. Which you choose to support impacts the extent to which your dollars are effectively leveraged to realize true social change. While most nonprofit organizations are formed with good intentions, it’s every donor’s responsibility to ensure the group or groups you support are productive in advancing their mission.

Your responsibility starts well before you write the check. It begins with choosing a worthy cause and the organization you’ll trust to champion that cause. Read on for five simple steps you can take to fine-tune your philanthropic approach—and ultimately make sure your donations are applied where they can do the most good in the world.

1. Identify what you’re trying to accomplish: What change do you want to see in your community and/or the world? What issues, demographics and/or geographies do you care about most?

2. Decide how you want to accomplish it:  Typically, your approach will lend yourself to choosing to support one of three types of nonprofit organizations:

  • Direct service organizations
  • Intermediary and capacity-building organizations
  • Policy and advocacy organizations

3. Research nonprofits that fit your goals: There are a number of online tools and resources available to aid you, both in finding and evaluating your options to find a best-fit organization you can be confident will utilize your donations effectively.

4. Do your due diligence beyond online ratings: If a nonprofit you’re interested in is local, consider attending an event or signing up to volunteer to get a better feel for the organization, its staff and operations. If a local meetup isn’t an option or your schedule doesn’t allow for a face-to-face introduction, schedule a call with the executive director to learn more about the organization and ask questions.

5. Trust your instincts: As with any relationship, getting a first-hand impression is critical to deciding whether or not a nonprofit is a good fit to satisfy your personal philanthropic goals. While data, third-party reviews, evaluations, and prominent media coverage can give a general overview and uncover major red flags, nothing beats out your instincts.

Read the full article about steps to informed giving by Kris Putnam-Walkerly at Forbes.