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Friday, September 13, 2019

Tidying Up My Philanthropy


As someone who spends a little too much time on Instagram, I can confidently say minimalism is having a moment. My feed is full of scarcely decorated, white-washed rooms, capsule wardrobes designed to create a season’s worth of outfits with ten pieces of clothing, and five-minute daily beauty routines.

I must say, this trend toward minimalism is refreshing. It inspired me to declutter my home and “Marie Kondo” my closet. And, generally speaking, the process left me feeling more intentional and content. It also prompted me to start thinking about the ways I could use these concepts in my life outside of my apartment. Being a person who spends at least forty hours a week thinking about philanthropy, my charitable giving felt like a natural application.

Here’s an easy way I adopted “philanthropic minimalism” and am doing more by doing less...


The flipside of my finely-curated Instagram feed is my chaotic, shouting Facebook newsfeed. Years of random friends and follows and an ever-changing algorithm has created a place I seldom like to venture into. It feels like an endless stream of time-sensitive social and political issues that require my time, attention, and donations to resolve. Each issue feels more urgent than the next, and I almost always close the app feeling overwhelmed and/or like the sky is about to come crashing down around me.

While I would love to support organizations working on all of these important issues, it’s just not possible. Well, it might be possible but it would mean making $5 donations to lots of charities, and something about that doesn’t feel very effective to me.

Enter philanthropic minimalism.
(A term I’ve coined for the sake of this piece.)

In an effort to overcome that chaotic sky-is-falling-what-do-I-do-first feeling, I have decided to accept that there is only so much I, being one person, can do. I only have so much attention, time, and money, and the best I can do is to be intentional with those resources.

For me, the first step was to create a list of the issues that matter most to me. Sure, a lot of things matter to me; but what are the issues that resonate deeply within me? A helpful way to uncover this answer was to think about if someone were writing a biography about my life (a real New York Times Bestseller, I’m sure). What would I want them to remember me being a fervent supporter of or a passionate advocate for?

Once I had this sorted out, the next step was to find an organization working on this issue. Working at Charity Navigator has exposed me to countless innovative charities finding creative ways to address some of the world’s oldest issues. Each is amazing and it can be hard to choose. The best advice I can offer is to do your due diligence and settle on one that “feels” right (spoken like a true millennial). 

After that, it was time to commit by making a gift and a plan for future gifts. For me, it’s easiest to make a monthly donation. It allows me to plan for my charitable giving in my monthly budget and ensures I’m making regular gifts. And, seeing the regular charge on my credit card statement is a great reminder to check in on the organization I’ve chosen to support.

I started this post by making a claim that adopting philanthropic minimalism is allowing me to do more by doing less. How is that possible?

It’s important to note that I’m not suggesting we give less money. The key to this idea is maintaining our generosity but supporting fewer organizations with it. By being more intentional and less reactive in our philanthropy, we naturally become more invested in and passionate about the causes we support. We’re doing something, but we’re not overwhelming ourselves trying to do everything. And, from a nonprofit’s perspective, their donor audiences become more engaged groups they can rely on to give, volunteer or participate in events, share news, and refer friends to.

I mentioned at the top of this post that I Marie Kondo-ed my closet. It’s easier to get ready now that I have fewer options than it was when possibilities came tumbling out at me (literally) as I opened the closet door.

I believe that adopting a similar approach to our philanthropy will yield a similar result. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by what we can or should be supporting, we can feel confident in our commitment to do something, knowing it’s the something we would want to be remembered for. We should also trust that there are others out there whose something is different, but no less important than ours. So, by doing less we’re actually doing more.

Written by Ashley Post, Communications Manager at Charity Navigator.


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2 comments:

Unknown said...

Thank you Ashley. It was fortuitous to find this on my phone this morning. Overwhelmed is the definitive word and I was really feeling it in regards to what can I really do to help others in serious need of help. The number one hurdle is, who can I really trust to use my donation the best way possible and how do I know it is legitimate. There are sooooo many hands out and some are not to be trusted.

Your comments were very helpful and made so much sense regarding giving in the best possible way. Your other suggestions about minimalizing other aspects of your life fits into my present program of downsizing.

I am 80 years old and every minute counts. What years are remaining cannot be wasted on minutia. We are never to old to learn new "stuff."
Thank you☀️

Snowy said...

Well written and sage advice; especially from a millennial. (smile)