The Westchester Community Foundation helps the givers

Story by Laura Rossi.


The fall giving season is upon us, beginning with the national 9/11 Day of Service and leading up to Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1) and the end-of-year holidays. Many of us will soon be receiving requests from friends and nonprofits for donations to support causes big and small.  If you are like most, you want to be sure that your gift of any size is truly making a difference. Here are six quick tips to help you sort it through:

1. Start with knowing what is important to you and your goals for charitable giving. There is an endless list of needs and issues. Know what resonates with you and where you feel the most passionate about making a difference. We recommend you narrow your giving to five to 10 areas and be sure to include local needs.

2. Before you write a check, get to know the cutting-edge approaches to the causes you care about. There is a wealth of resources available to help you learn the landscape and delve into current research on what’s working. Researchers are developing best practices and fresh approaches to seemingly intractable problems such as poverty and climate change.

3. Select a charity that uses evidence-based practices and emphasizes measurable results. Effective nonprofits identify the causes of the issues they seek to address and keep asking themselves whether they are having an effect. Read their websites, newsletters and annual reports to determine how they measure and track results.

4. Don’t stop there. Research outside sources for ratings and reviews, such as GiveWell and Charity Navigator, to determine how they use their resources and be confident that your donation is having an effect.

5. Get hands-on. There is no better way to know whether you are truly making a difference than volunteering. This can be tailored to what works for you, such as once a month days of service (a great way to involve children and grandchildren) or through longer commitments such as board service. The closer you get to an organization, the better you will know that your time, talent and money are making a difference.

6. Stay current and ask questions. The field of philanthropy, including foundations of all sizes and individual donors at all giving levels, are deploying exciting new approaches to solve age-old problems. It’s also a field characterized by collaboration and knowledge-sharing to ensure that efforts are effective. Want to learn more? The Westchester Community Foundation is a great local resource to help you become more confident in your giving. A nonprofit itself, the Westchester Community Foundation promotes informed, responsible philanthropy. We know that anyone can be a philanthropist and are here to help you get started.

Laura Rossi is executive director of the Westchester Community Foundation. For more, visit

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