Over the years, I and others who have confided in me have noted that philanthropy sometimes is not as satisfying as we hope. I’ve heard many relate that their giving doesn’t mean much to them, because they don’t have any sense of the good it has done.

We all bring our own motivations and needs to our giving. I have come to believe that we should give “‘til it feels good.” Giving more and larger gifts can actually feel more rewarding. So I encourage donors to consider these factors when they think about their giving:

  • Seeing is believing – and understanding. Learn more about the organizations you support. Most nonprofits are delighted to have you visit and love to tell their story face to face.
  • You can’t say “yes” effectively until you can say a clear “no.” That is, often making a deeper commitment to a favorite charity means choosing not to do other things. If I increase my gift to one, I may cut others from my list. Saying “no” can feel impossible because every gift, especially those made consistently over time, builds a relationship with the people associated with a favorite charity, sometimes including our friends.
  • Know that your gift matters – and if the nonprofit makes you feel that your gift doesn’t, move on. The size of a gift is not important. Others will always be able to make larger donations. Many smaller gifts build significant support together and being part of the team is good, relevant, and treasured. Every well-run organization welcomes a gift from the heart, whatever its size.
  • Know yourself and your own values, and prioritize your giving Giving is intensely personal and comes from a clear examination of what matters to us, the gratitude we feel for blessings received, and our own sense of self.
  • What holds you back? Sometimes it is our imagining of external perceptions. Years ago, when making a gift larger than any I’d ever given before, I was confronted with new and challenging thoughts. Would people think differently about me? Would other organizations now ask me for more? How would it feel to be higher up in the list of supporters next year? Do I belong with “those folks?”

As for me, here’s how I’ve settled it in my own mind: my family and I take real pleasure in being generous with our financial resources. We have come to understand that the joy in our giving depends on a level of generosity that we have decided, for us, is both a stretch and a commitment in good times and bad. We budget for it, near the top of our obligations. We know that we could do other things with that money, but giving it away is right for us. It is a core part of who we are. We like making a clear promise to ourselves and others.

Whatever support you offer is a generous act and a wonderful thing. Being more mindful of your choices will make it more fun for you. And when philanthropy is fun, we give more.

Try it!

—Nancy Kieling, President, Princeton Area Community Foundation