Confessions of a Volunteer Turned Donor by Kelsey Horine

I started volunteering at my local animal shelter with 4H when I was 8 years old and, until recently, my mantra was “I’d rather give my time than my money”.  While I was “strongly encouraged” to volunteer at a young age by my lovely mother, I continue to do so because I am in control of where I spend my time and can see the impact that it has.

I think the same should be true for the money I donate.  As I have gotten older (hopefully some of you YNPNers can relate), my time has become more valuable than money.  And thus came the evolution of my monetary giving, that and the reality of discretionary income.

For the last couple years, I have supplemented some small intentional giving with an extra dollar or two towards the grocery store charity drive, supporting friends’ races, being guilt tripped into giving to a cause I’ve never heard of from a street canvasser, and so on…Recently I have broken this pattern by very thoughtfully and methodically looking at how and who to give both my time and money to going forward. Instead of simply giving to everyone who asks, or turning down everyone who asks, I have considered the following:

1. The Cause: What do I care most about and what solutions exist to make those things better?

My answers:   
Cause                                                        Solution
Preserving the environment                 Conservation
Inequality                                                Education reform
Animal Welfare                                       Promoting the  anti-cruelty of animals
My grandma’s dying wish                     Curing Pulmonary Fibrosis

2. The Impact: I evaluated what will get the most bang for my buck.
As all of you know, there are literally hundreds of nonprofits for each of these causes, so I needed to find out what organizations are making the biggest impact and where that impact is felt (internationally and locally).

My answer: Looking at the financials and organizational accomplishments, using:
·        The organization’s website
·        BBB
·        Charity Navigator
·        Guide Star

These third-party resources are awesome for better understanding the organization’s effectiveness and efficiencies. One of the most important factors to evaluate is percentage of administrative costs, including fundraising compared to programs.

3. Accountability and Transparency: I wanted to understand how organizational decisions are made, how money is spent, which other companies give to them and what those groups get in return.

My answer:  Most of these things can all be found with the above sites and looking at the company’s 990 tax forms. You’ll be surprised at who pays their board members, or what organizations have large political giving.

4. Personal Experience: I engaged in some kind of interaction with the organization.

My answer:  This can be volunteering, a social media interaction, or emailing to ask more questions about the organization. Anything that gives me some positive personal touch.

Final Outcome:  Me feeling good about giving monthly to four organizations I truly believe in.

Kelsey A Horine is a past board member of YNPN Chicago and YNPN Denver. Before joining YNPN, Kelsey volunteered rebuilding houses after Katrina, at a fair trade coffee plantation in Nicaragua, as an AmeriCorps member in college, at an orphanage in Ghana, as a big sister in Denver and doing nonprofit consulting in Chicago. You can read more about from her at @TheKelseyAdele

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