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Philanthropy: Holidays are a time for cheer — and for giving

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The holiday season is here. It’s a time when the spirit of giving stirs an elevated sense of goodwill and generosity toward others. And for businesses, that typically means increased opportunities to give to worthy causes. However, whether you have an established charitable giving program or choose to make special seasonal contributions, the wealth of choices can be daunting. To make sense of business giving options — year-round as well as during the holiday season — here are some guidelines to help your company pick a worthy charity and direct its charitable contributions to the best return on investment for your organization and the recipient nonprofit.


Get ahead of the game by developing a business-giving plan. With a proactive giving plan, a business can better align philanthropy with its corporate mission. Without a plan, it can be easy to yield to mailed donation requests from nationally based organizations, instead of directing funds toward deserving local nonprofits. Moreover, articulating the plan to employees prior to the holiday crush allows your entire organization to focus its efforts on the chosen cause or causes.


Another key step is to clarify your organization’s mission and values. By having a clear understanding of what values are important to your organization, you can better identify the type of cause you prefer to support. Creating a short list of causes consistent with your organization’s mission — for instance, support for children and families, hunger, education, the arts, fighting poverty, and so on — can help pinpoint which requests or needs your company will contribute to.


In addition to matching causes with an organization’s values, a business will want to identify the importance of where the charity conducts its work. Do you want to give to a national or international organization or will you give only to nonprofits that provide programs and services in the local or regional area? If you decide to direct giving to local programs, consider a visit to several nonprofits to see their work first hand, which can further narrow your list of charities to support.


You might wonder, however, where you can find a list of local nonprofit organizations to consider. An excellent resource is the “Oregon Involved” website, a statewide effort to make it easy to get involved and make a difference in your community. Accessed online at www.oregoninvolved.org, the site provides a wealth of information and resources as well as an easy-to-use statewide search function to help you identify nonprofit organizations in your area. The “Find an Organization” interactive tool allows you to generate a list of nonprofit organizations based on county or region, type of organization (such as animal-related, youth development, food/agriculture, mental health, education and so on) or by specific organization name.

Other organizations can serve as resources for business giving questions and offer tips for managing a business giving program. They include the Oregon Community Foundation (www.ocf1.org), which administers philanthropic giving programs for individuals and businesses throughout Oregon; and Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington (www.gosw.org), a nonprofit membership association of private, corporate and community foundations and individuals practicing organized philanthropy.

Nationally, a few organizations monitor and evaluate charities for consumers, including the “Wise Giving Alliance” (www.give.org), a joint project of the National Charities Information Bureau and the Council for Better Business Bureaus.

It lists hundreds of charities, some that meet their standards and those that don’t — and it lists which standards they do not meet.


Contact your target charities to obtain basic credentials, such as proof of 501(c)(3) status (required for tax deduction purposes), an annual report and a copy of their bylaws. (Remember, even if the organization is tax exempt, that doesn’t guarantee you a tax deduction.

To find out if your donation is tax deductible, contact your local IRS office.) Reading a charity’s annual report can also provide you with a clear understanding of how your donation will be spent.

These guidelines can be applied whether you reach out to select charities or in instances where your organization has received a donation request. In either case, they can help ensure that your organization’s philanthropic efforts — during the holidays and throughout the year — make a positive difference in the community.

— Greg Chaillé, president,
Oregon Community Foundation
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


The 7,150 nonprofits in Oregon employ about 141,000 Oregonians and add approximately $4.6 billion to the state’s economy through paid wages. Those wages comprise more than 10% of Oregon’s private-sector payroll. In addition, there are 2,336 nonprofits providing services in Oregon with their main office out of state. The bulk of the state’s nonprofits are in education, human services, arts, environment and recreation.

Oregon nonprofits by type

Public benefit 54%
Mutual benefit 24%
Religious 22%


Nonprofits by region

Portland Metro 4,687
Willamette Valley/North Coast 3,134
Southern Oregon/South Coast 1,594
Central Oregon 734
Eastern Oregon 596

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