The nonprofit perspective: 6 questions to ask yourself when planning your giving

Nov 14, 2023

Vanguard Charitable donors’ grants are well-aligned to support the long-term health of nonprofits. Results from our Why Giving Matters report  prove this to be true. Our donors make repeat grants, which shows they learn more about where they want to give and follow through with their giving decisions. And they’re more likely to prioritize charities’ long-term needs over short-term, immediate results. Though Vanguard Charitable donors also grant in the short-term because of a donor-advised fund’s (DAF) flexibility, their strategic giving efforts indicate they’re looking after the long-term health of the organization, their programs, and the benefits they provide for their community.



As you think about the ways you can continue being a great partner for grantee organizations, consider these six questions to ask yourself: 



1. Is restricted or unrestricted granting in the organization’s best interest?


Oftentimes, unrestricted granting provides flexibility for the nonprofit, especially to invest in their infrastructure. Surveyed nonprofits identified flexible, unrestricted granting as a top priority in helping alleviate more pressing needs. While restricted granting can play a role, providing support for critical programs or helping to deepen a relationship between a nonprofit and a donor, it should be employed with care. Unrestricted granting, in particular, has grown 150% over the last five years for Vanguard Charitable donors. Over half of total dollars granted by Vanguard Charitable each year are unrestricted.     




2. What does the community that the organization serves need today? Will those needs look different one year from now or ten years from now? 


When assessing your alignment with nonprofit needs, you can try getting a sense of how your values and their mission can work together to create positive change. Depending on the organization’s mission, its needs may change from quarter-to-quarter or year-to-year. As a donor supporting its initiatives, consider how your giving can maintain long-term impact, too. Our 2023 Why Giving Matters report found that 80% of Vanguard Charitable grantees highly value long-term results, compared to 57% who highly value immediate results.




3. How can I support the organization’s assessment of performance? How does that take into account a long-term strategy?


Ensuring nonprofits operate to the best of their abilities plays a role in their long-term success. For any organization, long-term success includes having access to updated facilities and technology, onboarding paid staff, and even utilizing program development opportunities. It’s a common misconception that overhead expenses such as these are a bad thing for nonprofits. After all, if all the funds donated to a nonprofit went exclusively to specific designated programs, the organization wouldn’t be able to pay their staff, assess its performance, or keep the lights on in their offices. While it’s an understandable desire to leverage restricted giving so nonprofits allocate your grant dollars to an initiative of your choosing, consider the critical infrastructure needed to make that program or service effective and how your giving can enable more efficiency. 




4. What other support, beyond financial, might I be able to provide?


Sometimes, organizations benefit from nonprofit staff supports like skill-building programs, networking opportunities, and deeper connections to build on their mission. Our Why Giving Matters report found that 98% of Vanguard Charitable donors are involved in charitable activities outside of their donor-advised fund (DAF), with 67% volunteering, 38% lending skills and/or professional expertise to an organization, and 34% serving on a nonprofit board.




5. What cadence of contribution allows me to support nonprofits best?


Our Why Giving Matters report found that established accounts (with more than two years of tenure) issued 21% more grants on average over the past five years than new accounts.  As you learn more about an organization, its needs, and how they align with your giving plan, you’re likely to feel more comfortable sending more frequent donations to the organization. Don’t feel pressured to get your cadence perfect from the start; it takes time to figure out the right fit. 




6. Are there other organizations that are valuable partners to this core mission? How can I better support them and their goals? 


Why Giving Matters also found that from the moment a donor opens a Vanguard Charitable donor-advised fund, more than two-thirds of donors say they give more effectively to charity because of their DAF, with that percentage growing each year you hold your account with us. One way to support your effective giving is to think about complementing your giving to one nonprofit with giving to other nonprofits. Consider finding complementary nonprofit partners with Vanguard Charitable’s Discover Charities page or Find a Charity tool, which connects directly to Candid’s nonprofit directory, free of charge.  


As you step further into the mission and vision of the organizations you care deeply about, you have the critical opportunity to expand your impact. 


Take the next step today by making a contribution, setting up a recurring grant, or exploring your strategic charitable giving plan with MyGiving. Or, if you haven't yet, open an account today. 

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