Commentary: Be strategic with your charitable donations

In the U.S., the majority of all giving happens in the fourth quarter. There are thousands of worthy nonprofit organizations in our community, and near the end of the year, the requests for support begin to pour into our inboxes and mailboxes. 
 
Nonprofit organizations serve vital roles in our community, adding to our education system, protecting victims of domestic violence, caring for animals, advancing the arts, supporting hospitals and veterans groups, and more. It’s daunting to even think about prioritizing one critical service over another. 
 
With so many worthwhile charities doing incredible work in our community, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when considering which organizations should receive your gift. At the Community Foundation Tampa Bay, we believe there should be a personal plan for strategic philanthropy, no matter if you have $500 to donate or $500,000 to give.
 
Our philanthropic advisors focus on two questions: What matters most to you, and how can you make the biggest impact?
 
As you think about your giving priorities, there are five steps to follow to create a personal plan for strategic philanthropy:
 
1. Talk to your financial and philanthropic advisors. Discuss what assets to give and the different giving vehicles that are available, particularly if you plan to give a substantial amount. Your advisors can guide you on tax-reduction strategies, along with guiding you on the opportunities to make the maximum impact.
 
2. Think about what matters most to you. Try asking yourself this question: If I could spend two weeks volunteering for any cause or nonprofit, what would it be? 
 
If you have multiple issue areas that you want to support, consider focusing your research and giving in one or two areas, and then moving on to different areas of focus next year.
 
3. Do some research. What organizations in your community are working on the issues that matter most to you? Do you have a clear sense of what your donations to these organizations will support?

The Community Foundation Tampa Bay’s Critical Needs List can help. Verified, local nonprofits are able to list unbudgeted, unforeseen, and time-sensitive financial needs that are interfering with its ability to provide crucial services or presents an imminent threat to the organization’s continued operations. 
 
4. Get the family involved. Giving together is a great way for families to share interests and values. When children are involved in giving (and volunteering) — even at very modest levels — they learn the joy and importance of becoming contributing and involved members of their communities. 

5. Look for ways to multiply the impact. Donors can give directly to nonprofits, or work through the Community Foundation Tampa Bay to multiply the impact of a gift. At times, the Community Foundation can offer matching incentives when fundholders contribute or use the power of collective giving through avenues like donor-advised funds. In addition, check with your employers to see if matching funds are available through the company. 

With a personal plan for strategic philanthropy, it’s easy to give for maximum effect. Your gift to the causes that you care about can make a real difference in our community. 
 
Sheila Kinman, CAP® is the Senior Vice President, Philanthropy at the Community Foundation Tampa Bay where she helps donors design and fulfill their charitable giving goals. She is also a Charted Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®), a designation that provides knowledge for guiding charitable individuals, businesses and foundations. Contact the Community Foundation Tampa Bay for help with your charitable giving.