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Donating to a nonprofit organization is a wonderful way to give back to the community. The process is made easy by these organizations in order to make it as painless as possible. But still, there are some things first-time donors should keep in mind in order to maximize their efforts.

Amanda Pinney, executive director for strategic giving at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Paul Putman, director of philanthropic services at the Cleveland Foundation, and Chantel Tolbert, donor relations specialist at MetroHealth in Cleveland, said there are a few things to be cognizant of when making a first-time donation.

Donations at Case Western can support many impactful areas and cross a wide variety of disciplines, Pinney said. Whether choosing to provide scholarship support to undergraduate or graduate students, offering resources to faculty, or promoting research, donations can support a seemingly unlimited array of opportunities to impact the university, students and community.

The donation process at Case Western, Pinney said, is very simple. It can be as easy as an online donation, establishing a recurring or rollover gift from an IRA that takes advantage of tax-savings, or simply mailing in a contribution.

Pinney’s best advice is to really give thought to what you wish to support and the impact you wish to have. Taking that first step to find out what really matters to you and your family will help the university support your giving. Few gifts are as impactful as gifts of education, and it’s important to the university that donors find an area of impact that reflects who they are and the legacy they wish to leave.

“It’s important to know that there’s no wrong answer,” Pinney said. “When you’re passionate about a cause or an institution, philanthropy can be fulfilling. You should truly enjoy knowing the impact you are making on future generations.”

Donors at the Cleveland Foundation could also give to the foundation itself for initiatives like the Cleveland Black Futures Fund, which aims to strengthen the ecosystem of Black leaders and Black-serving organizations in Greater Cleveland area, or the Digital Excellence Initiative, which hopes to build a strong, equitable and resilient digital community in Greater Cleveland.

Putman said people can give to one of hundreds of funds supporting a variety of causes and several hundred local nonprofit organizations. If they would like, they can even give to the Cleveland Foundation in general, and the board members can use those dollars to support the highest needs of the community, he said.

Putman said his four pieces of advice would be to be reflect upon your values and how you want to serve the community, do the research you need to make yourself comfortable, don’t assume that you know the nonprofit’s business best – rather, you should ask the organization questions about themselves instead of assuming things – and lastly, connecting with others through a giving circle or more formalized program like social venture partners.

“When you’re looking at making the community a better place, it’s helpful to be in community with others,” Putman said. “So, while it’s not a requirement, I think there is something to be said for having conversations with other folks around. What do they see as the highest priorities in the community? How are they approaching their giving? What lessons have they learned?”

Tolbert said MetroHealth has a variety of funds available for people to give toward. There are some people who choose to make a direct gift to a specific program such as its burn care center or cancer center.

She added many new donors or first-time donors choose to give to the MetroHealth Fund, which is the general operating fund. This provides unrestricted funds to areas of greatest need at MetroHealth, such as patient care, scientific research or medical education, Tolbert said.

The first piece of advice Tolbert would offer is to do your research and due diligence.

“There’s so many organizations that can pique your interest,” Tolbert said. “I think the most important part, though, is thinking about where your support would go towards in terms of your funds and what the work is that they’re doing on the ground. Do you feel compelled toward that work? Are they responsible with the financial support that other donors have provided them with?”

Resources are available at your fingertips where you can learn about all of the great work that so many organizations are doing, she said.

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