fbpx vie magazine subscribe button

Giving Smartly

By Chad Zibelman | Photography courtesy of The Sonder Project

December is the most common month to make charitable contributions, and this year the reasons for giving are greater than ever. For starters, the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on most organizations’ fund-raising plans. Many live events had to be canceled or they were converted to virtual events, with mixed results. Additionally, reliable annual supporters have been impacted by COVID-19, resulting in a change of donation patterns. Add to that the increased costs of operating in a pandemic world, and you can see how nonprofit organizations dependent upon donations can certainly use your support this year.

There are more reasons to donate this year than just the COVID-19 pandemic and having a giving spirit; the 2020 CARES Act passed at the end of March provides tax incentives as well. Individual taxpayers that do not itemize their deductions can now deduct up to three hundred dollars per individual. That’s practically free money: you can give to a cause that matters to you rather than paying it in taxes. Furthermore, individuals who do itemize their deductions in 2020 can now deduct 100 percent of their adjusted gross income—up from 60 percent—and corporations can deduct up to 25 percent of their taxable income—up from 10 percent. Whether you can give a small or large donation, this is a great year to do it!

What if you’re not sure where to give? How do you ensure the money you donate is making an impact? How can you give smartly?

Here are a few tips to consider that will help give you confidence that your gift is making the most significant impact possible, whether you’re donating one dollar or one million dollars.

1. Do your research.

Choose an organization that you are familiar with and look it up, although the most revealing information may not be found on its website. Instead, use a search engine to find the organization’s Form 990. Most nonprofits who receive more than $50K per year are required to complete a Form 990, so you simply search, for example, Organization XYZ 990. The document provides excellent insight into an organization’s finances and how it operates. Although it certainly doesn’t tell the whole picture, it does give a more objective look at an organization. You can also look at an organization on CharityNavigator.com. Charity Navigator rates large nonprofits and recently created a rating sheet for smaller organizations like The Sonder Project, which is listed as one to which you can “Give with Confidence.”

Your gift can go a lot further abroad; because the level of poverty is greater, the cost of living for staff is lower, and solutions are often less complicated.

2. Give globally.

If you genuinely want to make the biggest possible impact with your donation, give to an organization working in the economically developing world. Your gift can go a lot further abroad; because the level of poverty is greater, the cost of living for staff is lower, and solutions are often less complicated. For instance, the water problem that began in 2014 in Flint, Michigan, cost over $350 million to fix for its population of roughly one hundred thousand people, or about $3,500 per person, according to the EPA. Meanwhile, it costs The Sonder Project $11,000 to provide access to clean water for a community of at least a thousand residents in Burkina Faso, equating to $11 per person. If you are interested in impacting more lives with less cost, consider supporting international causes.

3. Bigger is not always better.

If you are unfamiliar with local or smaller organizations, you may be more likely to support a large organization like the Red Cross or the American Cancer Society. These organizations are doing important work, but when you look at the number of donations they receive and the amount of money they spend on administrative functions and the infrastructure necessary to sustain them, your year-end donation is a drop in the bucket. According to Charity Navigator, the Red Cross spends $280.5 million per year—or 10 percent of its annual budget—on administrative and fund-raising expenses alone. Your donation is much more likely to be felt and appreciated by a smaller organization, especially in this pandemic-altered fund-raising landscape. When doing your research, compare the percentage of expenses between administrative costs and program costs. Assuming these percentages are similar, your donation will be a lot more meaningful to a smaller organization.

The Sonder Project, Build On, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Matundu School
Students and Sonder Project staff inside the Matundu School in Malawi, completed in September 2020.

4. Look for impact and sustainability.

My final suggestion—and this is something the financial documents can’t tell you—is to look at a nonprofit’s long-term impact. What are the results of the organization’s work? If the organization focuses on running educational programs, do they celebrate the number of people they’ve educated and the number of training sessions held, or do they dig deeper and focus on the outcomes that participants experience after training? Is participation enough cause for celebration, or is there a measurable result that demonstrates the organization’s effectiveness over time?

This is why The Sonder Project invests time into surveying members of our partner communities and measuring the effects of infrastructure projects. It’s why I can tell you that people in our communities who receive new wells spend, on average, over an hour and a half less per day collecting water. That fact is significantly more powerful than just knowing that we’ve installed seventeen wells. Creating long-term sustainability is also why The Sonder Project views each of its communities as a partner. We establish local leadership committees to oversee each project and require local contributions, such as raw materials and manual labor, to increase local ownership.

The Sonder Project, Build On, Malawi, Burkina Faso

Before choosing a nonprofit to help this year, I encourage you to view an organization’s website to understand its sustainable impact. It can help if you also talk to a member of the organization directly to hear what they have to say about their programs’ outcomes. If they’re focused solely on celebrating what they’ve done rather than the long-term impact of their initiatives, then you are better off looking elsewhere.

Donating is often viewed as giving something away with the expectation of receiving nothing in return; however, that is not precisely accurate. It’s more accurate to consider your donation as an investment in reaching a specific type of outcome—not for you personally, but for a cause you care about. Follow the recommendations above, and I’m confident you will make a choice that can improve many lives. Good luck with your research, and if you’re still not sure, please consider making a high-impact donation to support our global work at The Sonder Project. ’Tis the season for giving!

— V —


Chad Zibelman is the CEO of The Sonder Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Its mission is to empower impoverished communities through high-impact, sustainable development. Focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, The Sonder Project partners with communities to drill wells, build schools, and on various other community-based projects to improve lives. Learn more or donate today at TheSonderProject.org.



Read Responsibly

VIE Magazine January 2021 Special Commemorative Edition
VIE Magazine September 2020 Wanderlust Issue, Fancy Camps, The Idea Boutique
VIE Magazine August 2020 Art & Culture Issue, Nathan Alan Yoakum Art
VIE Magazine - Architecture & Design Issue - July 2020
VIE Magazine - Decor and Home Issue - June 2020
VIE Magazine May 2020 Entertainment Issue, Leslie Odom Jr
VIE Magazine - April 2020 Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine March 2020 The Fashion Edit, VONDOM, Alys Beach Fl, Digital Graffiti, Tres Chic, isidro dunbar Modern Interiors, Digital Graffiti Festival
VIE Magazine February 2020 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Travel Issue - January 2020 - Tanzania Safari Cover
VIE Magazine - Women's Issue - December 2019 - Tina Brown Cover
VIE NOV19 Goodness Issue
VIE Magazine, September 2019 Art & Culture Issue, Paul Hanninen
VIE Magazine - August 2019 - The Architecture and Design Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2019 - The Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - June 2019 - Fashion Edit
VIE Magazine - May 2019 - Culinary Issue
VIE Magazine - April 2019 - The Health & Wellness Issue
VIE Magazine - Special Entertainment Edition - March 2019
VIE Magazine February 2019 Luxury Homes & Technology Issue with Robbie Antonio of Revolution Precrafted
VIE Magazine - January 2019 - Southern Sophisticate Issue Cover
VIE Magazine - Special Anniversary Travel Edition - December 2018
VIE Magazine - The Goodness Issue - November 2018
VIE Magazine - The Art & Culture Issue - October 2018
VIE Magazine - Home & Garden Issue - September 2018
VIE Magazine - August 2018 Animal Issue
VIE Magazine - July 2018 Architecture & Design Issue - Subscribe to the magazine!
VIE Magazine - June 2018 Travel & Tech Issue
VIE Magazine - May 2018 Couture Issue
VIE Magazine - The Culinary Issue - April 2018 Cover - Chef James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst
VIE Magazine - The Entertainers Issue - March 2018
VIE Magazine - February 2018 Destination Travel Issue
VIE Magazine - January 2018 Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine, The Sophisticate Issue, December 2017
VIE Magazine - November 2017 Art & Culture Issue
VIE Magazine - October 2017 Home & Garden Issue
VIE Magazine | September 2017 | The Stories and Storytellers Issue
VIE Magazine - The Adventure Issue - August 2017
VIE Magazine - July 2017 - Art & Artist Issue
VIE Magazine - The Voyager Issue - June 2017
VIE magazine 2017 March-April Cover South Walton Fashion Week
VIE Magazine - January/February 2017 - The Health & Beauty Issue
VIE Magazine - Nov/Dec 2016 The Sophisticate Issue
christian siriano vie magazine september october 2016 vie magazine
the modern minimalist issue
Summertime!
the culinary and couture issue march april 2016 vie magazine
the voyager issue alys beach vie magazine january february 2016
cultural issue vie magazine november december 2015
home and garden issue vie magazine september october 2015
the art and style issue vie magazine july august 2015
the wedding issue 2015 May June vie magazine
the food and fashion issue vie magazine march april 2015
the travel issue vie magazine january february 2015
the music issue vie magazine 2014 november december
The Animal Issue vie magazine september october 2014
the home and garden issue vie magazine july august 2014
the wedding issue vie magazine may june 2014
emeril lagasse food and fashion vie magazine
the men's issue january february 2014
the music issue november december 2013 vie magazine
the home and garden issue 2013 october september
the wedding issue vie magazine july august 2013
the artist issue may june 2013 vie magazine
the food and fashion issue march april 2013
the men's issue january february 2013 vie magazine
The Holiday Issue
the love issue july august 2012
the all american summer may june 2012
the entertainment issue march april 2012
the fashion issue vie magazine winter 2011
the home and garden issue vie magazine fall 2011
the anniversary edition vie magazine summer 2011
the wedding issue vie magazine spring 2011
vie magazine the holiday issue 2010 Dec
vintage swimsuits vie magazine 2010 Fall
judith march designer vie magazine summer 2010
wedding giveaway vie magazine spring 2010
holiday gift guide vie magazine winter 2009
emarketing explosion vie magazine fall 2009
tribute to mother's day vie magazine summer 2009
james and robert redford vie magazine spring 2009
zz top vie magazine fall winter 2008
project dreams vie magazine new york fashion week
Sign-up for VIEmail

Sign up for VIEmail

X

A LIFESTYLE