With new charities emerging all the time, along with different ways to help them and measure their impact, choosing one to support can be tricky business. Here are 7 tips to help you pick
Philanthropy is for all sorts of people, as our director Cheryl Chapman highlighted in a recent blog for the Guardian’s Voluntary Sector Network. However rich you are, there are more effective ways to give your money, time and skills now than ever before.
Some people know exactly who they want to support from the start of their philanthropic journey.
They might have a personal connection to a particular charity, or want to give back to the communities that shaped them. But for those who can’t picture their causes so clearly, it can be difficult to know where to start.
We’ve pulled together some top tips for finding a group that’s perfect for you, with the help of some key advice from experts in philanthropy.
1. Spend some time researching charities that inspire you
If you’re interested in a cause, it’s quite easy to find the biggest charities working on them. Most people associate charities like Greenpeace with environmental activism and Amnesty International with human rights protection. But with over 160,000 registered charities in the UK, there are many smaller groups that also need support but are less well-known. There are lots of ways you can find out about different groups. Online platforms like the Charity Commission, the Charities Aid Foundation and GuideStar International all have helpful search engines for looking up charities by activity, location and size.
2. Make yourself approachable to charities that could use your help
It’s also useful to make yourself accessible to charities so they can engage you in their work. Volunteering for a charity can help you gain insights into their work, and see how far you could support them further. By joining a group like The Funding Network or the Engaging Experience Philanthropy Network, you can give charities the chance to present their work to you and pitch for your support. If you come across a charity you like, don’t be afraid to give them a call. Once they know you’re interested, they can send you more information and keep you updated on their work.
3. Learn more about charities by being active within them
Supporting a charity is all the more rewarding when you can see the change they make for yourself. Visit a charity before and during your work with them, or ask how you can promote their work to others. As Anna Josse from Prism the Gift Fund suggests, “Join a committee and eventually become a trustee. Branch out to other people, host a parlour meeting and spread the word.”
4. Want to have more impact? Team up with other donors
There are many ways to collaborate with other donors, either by pooling funds or bringing together different skills. Joining a giving network around a particular area of interest can help uncover opportunities like these, and research suggests that collaboration strengthens ties between donors and benefits them in many different ways. For example, Young Philanthropy Syndicates bring together friends and colleagues with shared interests and experienced philanthropists to maximise giving, impact and experience. You might also want to start a donor advised fund with others, so you can each top up when you like and decide on the recipients together.
5. Look for charities that can prove their impact...
More and more emphasis has been put on the need to support charities that prove their impact and effectiveness. In his 2013 TED talk, philosopher Peter Singer went as far as calling it a moral necessity. If you are thinking of supporting a charity, don’t be afraid to ask questions about how your money would be spent. As Alliance Magazine suggests, these could be about how they track and measure their outcomes, whether their programmes are evaluated independently, what their beneficiaries or partners have to say about their services and what their goals for the future are.
6. … But don’t overlook those that can’t
It’s important to remember that some groups tackle problems that are very hard to resolve. Progress can be difficult to measure, and therefore some charities can’t prove their impact in clear ways. As philanthropist Sigrid Rausing pointed out in a Guardian live chat on fundraising, metrics aren’t everything and “a lack of successful stories sometimes just means that the situations are difficult, or even intractable, it's not necessarily a sign of failure.”
7. Talk to someone who can help match your skills to those that need them most
As philanthropy continues to grow, more groups are emerging that help to match people with fitting charities. Based on your skills and resources, groups like Pilotlight, The Bulldog Trust and goprobono can link you with suitable charities and social enterprises and help make the most of your potential to help them, whether through financial support or skills sharing.
Do you support a charity or social enterprise? How did you come about choosing them, and what has made your relationship work well? Have there been any challenges, and if so, what has helped you to overcome them? We’d love to hear your stories. Share them in the comments, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us at @Philanthrocity