Uptake.org’s Four-Step Giving Guide

This guide gives you the tools you need to spot awesome non-profits that fit your passions, choose non-profits with clear, measurable results, and arms you with resources for identifying local, national, and international causes.

Now that we’ve kicked off the New Year, you may be still thinking of ways to start 2017 on a positive, productive note. Is giving back to your community one of your resolutions? If you hadn’t given it much thought, there’s no better time than right now to reach out and give back to those in need.

With more than 1.5 million non-profits in the U.S. doing charitable work in the social sector, determining which cause is most suitable for your donation can seem like a daunting task.  So, where do we begin?

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Uptake’s Civic Engagement arm, Uptake.org, put together a clear guide that will help you find the best fit. This guide gives you the tools you need to spot awesome non-profits that fit your passions, choose non-profits with clear, measurable results, and arms you with resources for identifying local, national, and international causes.

Check out our four-step guide to help you get started.

Step 1: Figure out what kind of non-profit fits your interests. What social causes are you passionate about? Through your giving, you can help solve real problems in the world. You can use sites like GuideStar.org to search non-profits by interest. Here’s a short list of a few non-profits by category to give you some ideas:

Conservation & Sustainability
World Wildlife Fund
Air Shepherd
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Education
One Goal

Human Rights
Human Rights Campaign

Arts
Ingenuity Inc.

Poverty Alleviation
Give Directly
Mary’s Meals
Nuru International

Health
Splash
Watsi

Step 2: Check your “cool problem” bias at the door. Many organizations that combat systemic issues may not make your jaw drop, but they are solving real problems. Don’t let the coolness factor get in the way of your giving.

Step 3: Look for organizations that use data in wise ways to measure their impact. A non-profit should be transparent about their data and publish their findings. They should also have baselines and metrics that show progress against that baseline. Don’t be fooled by vanity metrics or compelling stories alone.

For example, possiblehealth.org publishes their impact results straight on their site. They clearly present the number of people who have received healthcare services from them in rural Nepal with detailed accounts of their numbers. This non-profit is clearly making an impact. Another great example is Proving.it, a transparency initiative from the water and sanitation health nonprofit, Splash. Organizations that transparently communicate data about their effectiveness are preferred to organizations that keep this information hidden.

Step 4: Don’t be fooled by the ‘Overhead Myth’. Just because a non-profit spends money on salaries and overhead doesn’t make them ineffective. Look for results and think like an investor. If you donate, make sure there’s a return on your investment in terms of social impact.

Step 5: Donate. Most organizations have secure sites to donate. Make sure you keep a receipt. All donations made to 501(c)3 organizations are tax deductible. Be sure to include them on your 1040 form in April. If you’re not sure whether your donation qualifies, check GuideStar.org or you can pull the organization’s 990 tax form.

Now what?

Tell the world about what you’re supporting on social media. Showing your support will encourage others to get involved and possibly open new doors socially and professionally.

Want to give year-round?

There’s no need to just give once. You can become an active donor and support an organization monthly. Fortunately, many organizations make it easy to set up a recurring donation. You can also give while you shop. When you sign up for smile.amazon.com, Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization.

Giving Your Time

While we’re no longer limited to supporting non-profits directly in our own communities, some may find it more meaningful to give back locally. Donating toys and winter garments or volunteering time at your local community center will always be respectable ways to flex your charity muscles.

If you’re still unsure of where to start when it comes to giving back, let Uptake.org give you some more ideas. We’re engaging with social enterprises to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Andrew Means is the Head of Uptake.org, the civic innovation arm of Uptake.