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How To Pick A Non-Profit To Donate To

This blog was written by Rev. Hannah White, who is the Co-Lead Pastor & Chief Creative Officer of Village Heights Church in Houston, Texas. 

As Giving Tuesday quickly approaches, you have surely noticed an influx of non-profits asking you to support their organization. In a perfect world, we would all be able to shower every single charitable organization that appears in our inboxes with the most lavish of gifts… but, it’s 2020. We’ve got to make every dollar count!

So, how do you know which non-profit is the right one to support? How should we choose the most appropriate place to give?

As the Development Director at a growing non-profit, it was once my job to chase down leads and make the “big asks.” I loved getting to tell the stories of those whose lives were being changed by our organization. It was incredibly rewarding to solicit philanthropic support for a cause that I both believed in and knew was working well.   

Now, as one of the Lead Pastors at Village Heights, I find myself on the opposite side of this benevolent relationship. Our church has three core values. We are Christ-centered, community crafted, and audaciously generous. When put that into practice, that simply means we are consistently looking for ways to love and support our city, while cheering on local initiatives. As much as I’d like to think we have endless resources, there will always be limits to what we’re able to do. And, as much as I would love to say “yes” to every need that comes our way, there will always be more to do than we’re able to fund.

How do we get the most meaningful impact out of every altruistic dollar?  

Having experience in both asking for donations and searching for ways to give, I have developed my own process for vetting the various non-profits that my family and our church support.

1. Know What You Are Getting Into

In this incredibly digital age, it requires very little to get organizational information. Beyond looking at their website and doing a quick google search, most non-profits can be found on GuideStar. On their profiles, you can read more about their mission, programs, and financials. Most importantly, you can learn more about their impact and results. Our friends at Elijah Rising have a “Platinum Seal of Transparency” on GuideStar. That means that they have incredibly open lines of communication with their constituents and don’t mind sharing about their operation. In my experience, any organization with that level of candid accountability is one you can trust. When it’s convenient, ask around your office, church, or neighborhood to learn more about the organizations those in your community already trust.

2. Stay In Your Lane

It’s an incredible blessing to know that there are non-profits all across our city fighting to better the lives of those around us. Unfortunately, you can’t donate to every single one. First, decide what is important to you. Then, invest in an organization that shares your passion, aligns with your beliefs, and/or is working in an arena where you would like more training. Making a donation to a non-profit is always a phenomenal idea. But, why not take it a step further by making a commitment to long-term growth? You can accomplish far more when you continually invest your time, talents, and treasures.

3. Stay Local While Going Global

I love Houston… like, really love Houston. If this is the place that I enjoy living and get to raise my family, why wouldn’t I want to do my part to make it even better? So, I like supporting organizations that are working hard for Houstonians. But I also understand that the diversity of our city opens incredible doors of opportunity to reach the entire world. It is incredibly possible to do amazing work right here at home while having a growth mindset for further reach. Organizations operating that way seem to make the most of every dollar.

4. Break Down Your Dollar

It is important to know how an organization spent their money in the past and how they plan to spend it in the future. An overview of expenses can be found on an organization’s 990. But, to build on top of that, I like to know how quickly my donation can be put into action. Is there an urgent need or a project in the works? It feels like a win to me if my donation can immediately make someone’s life better. Even if it’s simply a staff member at the organization, I like knowing that I’ve taken an item off of someone’s to-do list or a burden off of someone’s shoulders.

It never hurts to reach out to an organization that you’re considering. Schedule a zoom call. Take them to lunch. Find a way to ask questions, learn more about what they do, and celebrate the incredible work they’ve already accomplished.

5. But First, Pray

It was Jesus who taught that when we serve the least among us, we are really serving Him. So, ask for His direction when looking for ways to most efficiently and effectively contribute to the compassionate service that’s already happening. Pray for those leading the way and for their organizations that don’t rest.

None of us can do everything. But we can all do something!

Rev. Hannah White is the Co-Lead Pastor & Chief Creative Officer of Village Heights Church in Houston, Texas. 

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