Give What? – Giving U™

You and I have three things to offer the citizen sector, otherwise known as “nonprofit” organizations: Knowledge, Time & Money (which they pretty much want in reverse order).



Many people prefer to connect with the organization they’re supporting and wish to contribute their expertise, in addition to giving dollars. This is fantastic! And the perfect way for an individual to get deeply involved with a cause they care about.

But to be really useful, it helps to think not only about what you want to do, but also what the orgs really need:

  • ContactsIntroducing the organization to your friends and professional network is invaluable for orgs since it’s a great opportunity for them to get in front of an interested audience of new, potential donors.

  • Professional Advice: If you are an attorney, accountant, or marketing / PR professional – these are all skills that orgs really need and a pro bono relationship is fabulous way for you to give a significant gift.


The real question here is “How do I get involved?”  So many ways, so many needs. And really, the onus is on the orgs to tell you how. That said, here’re a few options to consider:

Direct vs. Indirect Action: Indirect action is the valuable work mentioned above: pro bono accounting, helping host fundraising events, serving on a Board. These services are the backbone of an effective organization.

In my business, I do mainly strategy work, so when I volunteer, I love to do direct action work; i.e.: rolling up my sleeves and working directly with the individuals that benefit from the org’s services. Ladling soup, stocking food pantries, driving the elderly to appointments – all are types of front-line direct action work.

Other volunteering options include group activities and oversea volunteering opportunities. Read my post about them here:  Post: Get off your Butt and Volunteer! 


No matter how pure your intentions, what orgs really need are cash donations to keep the doors open, lights on, and health care benefits for employees (who generally get paid in t-shirts and pizza).

  • Cash is King: As a Development Director at Habitat for Humanity-NYC, I had “Cash is King” written in red ink on a paper plate hanging over my desk.  Not so subtle, but the message came through loud and clear.
  • Unrestricted Gifts: Not all money is equal. The *best* money for nonprofits is unrestricted where they decide how to spend your donation. I always give unrestricted funds, although if I had my choice I would prefer my gift go towards giving the staff a monetary bonus. Nonprofit staffs are woefully underpaid and the turnover can be crippling for an organization. I’m a big believer in investing in the people that make the organization run. 

Check out these other hot nonprofits:                                   


This entry was posted on Saturday, May 9th, 2009 and is filed under The Giving Guide.

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