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As the Jewish new year begins, many people feel inspired to give back to their community through charitable contributions.

According to the National Philanthropic Trust, $292 billion was donated to charity in 2018. Many donors find the most important step is knowing their donation will make a difference.

Dionne Broadus, vice president of development and external relations at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Renee Harvey, vice president and executive director of the Cleveland Browns Foundation, both in Cleveland, said being intentional with one’s gift is a good way to ensure a meaningful impact.

“It is important to get as narrow as possible on your focus and as knowledgeable about that focus as you can,” Harvey said. “For example, (the Cleveland Browns Foundation) used to fund education and health. Those are very broad areas, so it was valuable to pick one issue and go all-in on addressing it.”

Giving with purpose starts by finding a cause that hits your values, Harvey said.

“For us, it was finding an issue we can solve,” she said. “And by giving intelligently, you do want to be knowledgeable in the area you’re giving. It helps you determine a stronger match on what you want to focus on.”

With existing donors of an organization, giving with purpose lies in being clear with one’s goals for their gifts.

“It is understanding their priorities and that it matches with their philanthropic intent,” Broadus noted. “The important part is making the relationship truly collaborative. But, also the donor should have a good sense of what is important to them, their priorities and the impact they want to have with their gift.”

Before making a gift, donors should reflect a bit to make sure they are being thoughtful.

“First, they should identify sort of ballpark levels of investment that they are thinking about for a nonprofit charity,” Broadus said. “This does ebb and flow, but they should have a sense of how much they’re trying to invest. Also, consider what is important to your family and what kind of impact or legacy you want to have in the short- and long-term. It does require the donor to have some clarity.”

Harvey said it’s also important to know whether an organization is open to partnering with other agencies to make an impact.

“It’s important to see that nonprofits know they can’t do it all and that they are willing to partner with other agencies,” she said. “We see too often that nonprofits try to be all things for all people instead of doing what they do well and partnering with others to fill in the blanks.”

Though all gifts do make a difference, Broadus said it’s on the organization to find a way to make the gift truly impactful.

“All of our gifts are meaningful, but it is on us to match our goals with the donor’s,” she said. “Then, we have to demonstrate back what that impact is. It’s then a win-win situation and it’s reaching what they’re interested in, and it’s directly focused on what the organization sees as their top priority.”

Harvey said gifts always drive change, but it’s not always just about making a gift.

“Just giving a gift is great and helps a nonprofit, but giving with a purpose allows you to be more engaged with the gift,” she explained. “If you’re trying to drive change, it’s synonymous with giving with a purpose. ... It depends on the donor and what is important to them.”

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