How to Make a Meaningful Gift

Jewish Community Foundation Los Angeles Sara Hahn

How to Make a Meaningful Gift

By Sara Hahn, Senior Program Officer, Center for Designed Philanthropy

A gift to a nonprofit has the potential for great impact, not only for the organization but also for the person who is making the charitable contribution. But how can someone ensure that their gift is meaningful?

For a donor or family, there are many ways to imbue meaning into a gift. Here are some ideas to help guide you as you move through this process.

Your history

  • Think about your story—your personal narrative. What were some of the important moments at school, with your family, and with friends?
  • Who or what influenced you growing up? Who did you admire?
  • Were there historical events that influenced who you are today?

After reflecting on these, take a moment to think if there are charitable outlets that reflect your story. For example, perhaps you encountered a health challenge, and you want to support medical research in that field. Or, maybe a teacher greatly impacted your studies and career, and you want to contribute to your alma mater or another educational institution.

Your Values

  • Think about your values. What are some of the words that come to mind?
  • What change would you like to see in the world? What do you feel is missing?
  • How do your values interact with the history you discussed above? Did they evolve over time?
  • How does charitable giving reflect your values?

After reflecting on these questions, you may find that it helps you to make decisions about your giving. For example, if you determine that one of your guiding values is creativity, you may want to make a gift to an organization that helps provide creative outlets for others.

The Jewish Perspective

  • You may also be interested in exploring Jewish wisdom about tzedakah as a path to meaningful giving.
  • There are many layers to Jewish giving. The medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides (aka Rambam) describes this in the Ladder of Tzedakah, which outlines eight degrees of tzedakah. The highest form of giving, according to Maimonides, is to help someone improve their circumstances through a loan or a job. Maybe this speaks to you, and you are interested in finding nonprofit organizations that support employment training or financial assistance.
  • Maimonides also emphasizes the importance of charitable giving that honors the dignity of the recipient. Today, this can inform the many options that donors have for giving, such as giving anonymously.
  • You might also want to take time to consider the Jewish values that speak most strongly to you. Perhaps you benefitted from a Jewish education and want to continue that tradition by donating to a local school. Or you value the family meals you share on holidays, and want to support organizations working to end hunger.

Reflecting on your story and values is a wonderful way to imbue meaning into a charitable gift. This conversation can also be a powerful opportunity to connect and share with your family. The Center for Designed Philanthropy is available to facilitate discussions and help guide you through this process.

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