Three Simple Ways to Do #GivingTuesday

When I say Black Friday, I think fights over a big screen TV. When I say Cyber Monday, I think of the big sale Birchbox had yesterday that gave me my favorite dry shampoo for 25% off. When I say Giving Tuesday, I hear… *crickets*

We’ve all probably spent a little too much this weekend (and maybe eaten a little too much, too), but today is #GivingTuesday, a day where we put aside our own (really fun and awesome) wish lists and focus on giving to the needs around us. This Giving Tuesday, here are three super simple ways you can give to those around you.

1.       Up your monthly support for December.  A one-time gift to a missionary your church supports this month could be huge! Think of all the extra little expenses you have around the holidays—missionaries aren’t exempt, and a gift of even as much as $15 could help an overseas worker this month.

2.       Switch it up. If you mostly support global missions, why not give to a local outreach? If you’re all about helping people locally, why not support a global organization today? (If you’re looking to partner with a new nonprofit, check out this post on simple ways to vet them before you give). What a great way to remember helping people is not about a certain zip code or country name, but about loving anyone and everyone you can.

3.       Choose from the catalog. I think just about everyone remembers circling toys in a catalog around Christmastime. An even more awesome activity is looking over the Wish List of your favorite nonprofit organization. Wish Lists typically list specific gifts you can give. For instance, you might be able to buy a meal for an orphaned child for $6, or purchase a coat for a homeless veteran for $30. I know kids that absolutely love looking over wish lists and picking out projects to support. Since the gift prices can start so low, it is a great way to make an unplanned donation!

This Christmas, it can be so easy to focus on the stress and the wrapping paper and the decorations, but I encourage us all to take just a few minutes today to focus our heart on the gifts of the season and donate to an organization doing some awesome work (You can find some of my favorites here!).

Happy #GivingTuesday!

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Engaging Millennials in Your Mission

Whether its hunger or human trafficking, clean water or orphan care, millennials are passionate about injustice and want to be the generation that changes things. Why should that matter to you? Well, the millennial generation is entering the workforce like a tidal wave, which means your hiring, fundraising, advocacy, and vision need to include a plan to harness the power of these idealists and engage them with your mission. Here are five ways you can keep millennials in mind as you plan for the future of your org, although I would argue these principles are important to implement across all age ranges.

1.       Harness Advocacy

Millennials want their voice to matter—I would say, as a generation, our biggest fear would be that ours doesn’t. According to Pew Research Center, the average American has 732 online connections, but a quick Facebook or Twitter search of millennials you know makes it easy to see some people blow that out of the water on just one site. With more contacts than your tracking system would know what to do with, it is a shame that so many organizations have no easy way for users to share stories, pictures, or even a logo easily on social media.

charity:water is great at engaging millennials on this level, right on their homepage which boasts, “You can….for clean water. Start a Campaign.” They then have sharable images, hashtags, and resources to make everyone an advocate.

2.       More Distrust Doesn’t Mean More Info

You probably already know that millennials are distrusting of organizational structures such as the church or large organizations. It is easy to want to prove you are trustworthy and doing good things by adding more—more documents, more words, more webpages on your site. This won’t do anything to engage millennials. We’re used to 140 characters and our attention span has, in some sad cases, proven to be shorter than that of a goldfish. So instead of more, use less, but use it well. A two sentence story of a life changed laid over a picture will do more for you than your 10 page annual report ever could. Better yet, skip the print altogether and use a video.

3.       Continued Stories

Since millennials have short attention spans, to keep millennials engaged in the long haul it is important to share stories continuously. The story that got them involved won’t always be able to keep them giving or advocating for you if you don’t have something new to share. It is a legacy of stories, shared often, that will keep millennials engaged.

4.       Be Specific, Especially in Fundraising

Millennials want to know exactly where their money is going. A simple country name or vague “food and schooling” program isn’t enough to ignite passion.  But telling someone your fifty dollar purse was made by Mary in Uganda and allows her to send her children to school is powerful. Let them feel the power of their gift by going a little deeper.

Fair Trade Friday and Noonday Collection are both great at recognizing this. Every product comes with a tag, and Noonday’s come with the name and some info about the artisan who created your product.

5.       Hire Millennials

If you want to gain millennial attention, you have to have millennials on staff. They shouldn’t be hard to find, as more millennials want to do meaningful work than ever before (30% of millennials list “meaningful work” a measure of career success).  A few years ago, the organization I work for re-strategized, decentralizing the organization and hiring millennials around the nation. There was a 400% increase in recruitment for missions, and many of those joining were millennials because millennials were also the ones doing the recruiting. If a millennial working for you is excited about the mission, they become a force and your cause’s greatest champion among their peers.

Millennials can have a bad reputation, but if you can engage them in your mission, their impact is undeniable. By giving them a voice and a story to share, millennials can be a huge force for good.

Choosing a Nonprofit 101

So you know you’ve got to do something, but now you’re thinking, okay, so I want to support a charity. The question is, what charity?  There are SO MANY nonprofit organizations out there, over 1.5 million to be exact. So how can you know which one you want to put your voice and money behind?

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There are several things I look at when I discover a new nonprofit:

What are they doing?  Well, this is one is pretty basic, but what is this nonprofit doing in the world? If I’m using my time, my prayers, my money directed at something, I want to know enough about them to tell someone else confidently why this organization is important.

Who are they doing it with?  It is super important to me that organizations I support work with the local community and not for the local community. I heard it best described as this: any community is basically an ecosystem. When you introduce something foreign to that ecosystem, it creates a shock and has consequences. For instance, in America, what happened when packaged food came onto the scene in the 1950s? It changed the way America ate. In a developing country, aid given to a community irresponsibly can actually hurt the community. If an organization is working with local citizens in community development and listening to what locals are saying, it just makes more sense.  It’s also important to make sure in marketing materials that the organization is respecting the dignity of those whom they are serving. For me, that means not having a picture of people crying and sick and not showing any of the joy, intelligence, and love of the people.

Who doesn't wanna love that face?
Who doesn’t wanna love that face?

Why are they doing it?  For me, I want any social justice initiatives to be partnered with the Gospel. Any other form of charity is not going to give anyone what they actually need. Again, check out the pictures in their marketing materials. Are there more pictures of the leader than the people he or she is helping? That might be an indicator of something…

Do they actually need help? Here’s the thing: most nonprofits need money. But checking to see how a nonprofit uses it can tell you a lot about if they need your money to further their mission. A quick check on Charity Navigator or Guidestar can give you a quick summary of how an organization is set up. It can tell you a few things:

  • How much money they take in vs. how much they are spending
  • What percentage of their money goes to administrative and fundraising expenses
  • See if their board members are independent voting members (that means they can hold the organization accountable without a conflict of interest, i.e. the Senior Vice President is not the Board Chair)
Here's a sample Charity Navigator profile of a nonprofit
Here’s a sample Charity Navigator profile of a nonprofit

This is really really important, but I do want to point out something: overhead doesn’t count for everything. Yes, 100% of all money given going to programs is great, but I have seen some great organizations that have 0 money going overhead get to a point where they are so overwhelmed with worry about how they will make a living and how to keep quality employees that they are crippled and eventually hit a wall barring their growth. In the opposite realm, I have seen an organization with a higher overhead percentage be able to provide truly great services to the people they serve.

I know it’d be easier for you if I just gave you a number, but this is where research becomes really important! If you see a nonprofit you really like but see a weird overhead number, just call and ask. Really. I’ve done this before, and, yes, it kind of throws people off, but it also gives me the opportunity to get to know the heart of an organization better than what a black and white number can do.

Are there opportunities to go deeper? Can I go and visit the work I am investing in? Can I write a letter to the child? Can I talk to someone at the charity when I have a question? Can I learn more about the issue or volunteer with the organization?

A nonprofit that doesn’t provide you chances to grow deeper isn’t interested in you—only your money. They may not have that quote up on the wall in their office or anything, but think about it. Don’t you want to be more than just a check? Don’t you want to truly invest both your money but also a piece of your heart into bettering the world?

(Shoutout to Compassion International, who does an INCREDIBLE job of grabbing supporters and pulling them to go deeper with letter writing, volunteer opportunities, gift guides, and sponsor trips)

If you can’t find the answers to these questions on the website, CALL AND ASK. Really. It’s important to know these things and know where your time and money is going. You aren’t being a bother, you are being a wise co-laborer.

I love learning about faith-based nonprofits and what they are doing in the world, but to cross the threshold from general interest to fellow Kingdom investor, these are the things I look for first in a nonprofit.

What are things you look for when you research to be generous with your time and money?

Choosing a Nonprofit 101

So you know you’ve got to do something, but now you’re thinking, okay, so I want to support a charity. The question is, what charity?  There are SO MANY nonprofit organizations out there, over 1.5 million to be exact. So how can you know which one you want to put your voice and money behind?

canp

There are several things I look at when I discover a new nonprofit:

What are they doing?  Well, this is one is pretty basic, but what is this nonprofit doing in the world? If I’m using my time, my prayers, my money directed at something, I want to know enough about them to tell someone else confidently why this organization is important.

Who are they doing it with?  It is super important to me that organizations I support work with the local community and not for the local community. I heard it best described as this: any community is basically an ecosystem. When you introduce something foreign to that ecosystem, it creates a shock and has consequences. For instance, in America, what happened when packaged food came onto the scene in the 1950s? It changed the way America ate. In a developing country, aid given to a community irresponsibly can actually hurt the community. If an organization is working with local citizens in community development and listening to what locals are saying, it just makes more sense.  It’s also important to make sure in marketing materials that the organization is respecting the dignity of those whom they are serving. For me, that means not having a picture of people crying and sick and not showing any of the joy, intelligence, and love of the people.

Who doesn't wanna love that face?
Who doesn’t wanna love that face?

Why are they doing it?  For me, I want any social justice initiatives to be partnered with the Gospel. Any other form of charity is not going to give anyone what they actually need. Again, check out the pictures in their marketing materials. Are there more pictures of the leader than the people he or she is helping? That might be an indicator of something…

Do they actually need help? Here’s the thing: most nonprofits need money. But checking to see how a nonprofit uses it can tell you a lot about if they need your money to further their mission. A quick check on Charity Navigator or Guidestar can give you a quick summary of how an organization is set up. It can tell you a few things:

  • How much money they take in vs. how much they are spending
  • What percentage of their money goes to administrative and fundraising expenses
  • See if their board members are independent voting members (that means they can hold the organization accountable without a conflict of interest, i.e. the Senior Vice President is not the Board Chair)

Here's a sample Charity Navigator profile of a nonprofit

This is really really important, but I do want to point out something: overhead doesn’t count for everything. Yes, 100% of all money given going to programs is great, but I have seen some great organizations that have 0 money going overhead get to a point where they are so overwhelmed with worry about how they will make a living and how to keep quality employees that they are crippled and eventually hit a wall barring their growth. In the opposite realm, I have seen an organization with a higher overhead percentage be able to provide truly great services to the people they serve.

I know it’d be easier for you if I just gave you a number, but this is where research becomes really important! If you see a nonprofit you really like but see a weird overhead number, just call and ask. Really. I’ve done this before, and, yes, it kind of throws people off, but it also gives me the opportunity to get to know the heart of an organization better than what a black and white number can do.

Are there opportunities to go deeper? Can I go and visit the work I am investing in? Can I write a letter to the child? Can I talk to someone at the charity when I have a question? Can I learn more about the issue or volunteer with the organization?

 A nonprofit that doesn’t provide you chances to grow deeper isn’t interested in you—only your money. They may not have that quote up on the wall in their office or anything, but think about it. Don’t you want to be more than just a check? Don’t you want to truly invest both your money but also a piece of your heart into bettering the world?

(Shoutout to Compassion International, who does an INCREDIBLE job of grabbing supporters and pulling them to go deeper with letter writing, volunteer opportunities, gift guides, and sponsor trips)

If you can’t find the answers to these questions on the website, CALL AND ASK. Really. It’s important to know these things and know where your time and money is going. You aren’t being a bother, you are being a wise co-laborer.

I love learning about faith-based nonprofits and what they are doing in the world, but to cross the threshold from general interest to fellow Kingdom investor, these are the things I look for first in a nonprofit.

What are things you look for when you research to be generous with your time and money?