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8 Secrets of Savvy Donors

8 Secrets of Savvy Donors

You’re generous and kind. You care about other people and want to help them have great lives. You want to make a positive impact on the world and give from your heart to worthy causes. You’re a great person!

Yet there’s a niggling feeling of doubt at the back of your head when you donate. How do you know that you’re giving to the right causes? How do you know that you’re giving the right amount and at the right time? How do you know that your generous gifts of time and money actually have the kind of impact you want on the world? Truly savvy donors don’t have that doubt. They are confident that they give to the right causes, the right amount, and that they are getting what they paid for with their generosity and kindness. They are super-donors!

What are their secrets? They still listen to their heart – that’s why they want to give in the first place – but they combine the heart and the head to give effectively. You can be a savvy super-donor too, and be truly confident that you’re making the best decisions with your giving by learning their secrets.

1. Be Intentional

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    Knowledge is power! Super-donors are intentional about figuring out their aims and strategies for giving. They take the time to sit down and decide what goals they want to achieve through their generosity. They think about the kind of impact they want to have in the world. They decide what causes are most important to them – poverty, disease, animal welfare – and rank them by order of importance. Now, this ranking can  be quite difficult to achieve, and there’s no right answer. Listen to your heart and see what feels right to you. For some help, you can turn to Giving What We Can, which helps provide guidance on one’s giving. Follow this strategy, and you’ll know that you are giving to the causes that are right for you!

    2. Listen To Yourself

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      Another secret tactic that super-donors use to give to the right causes is to make sure to listen to themselves above everyone else. They know that they themselves should determine their giving decisions. While they don’t let anyone dictate to them what to do, they listen to and consider the opinions of others, and shift their mental maps of reality based on new information they did not know before. Indeed, super-donors are masters at changing their minds with appropriate evidence. However, the key is that they do so for their own reasons, not to please others.

      3. Budget Well

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        There are so many great causes out there that you can’t reasonably contribute to all of them. Super-donors prevent that problem by preparing a giving budget! They decide in advance how much resources they want to spend, of both time and money. They distribute their resources to the causes they outlined above by order of importance to themselves. If you do so yourself, you’ll be confident that you are giving the right amount!

        4. Plan Ahead

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          Super-donors plan their giving in advance. They know that most people tend to give during the winter holidays, but charities need money throughout the year. So they time their giving to counter the “holiday effect.” They also know that charities most benefit from monthly donors who automate monthly donations from their bank accounts or credit cards. Monthly donors enable charities to plan ahead themselves and make the most effective use of each dollar. Another benefit of monthly donations is that the super-donors get to feel positive emotions every month when they get a warm thank-you note from the non-profit. Since both giving and experiencing gratitude are science-based strategies for improving happiness, super-donors are happier! By using this strategy, you can ensure that you are giving at the right time, for your own happiness and satisfaction, and for the charities to which you give.

          5. Be Flexible

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            Super-donors are flexible about their giving. They know that their resources change over time in unexpected ways. For example, they might get an unexpected bonus, and decide they have more to give each month. However, they might be laid off and then have less money to give, but more time. They revise their giving budget and plan to make sure it aligns with their resources and priorities. You can commit to giving something every month but allow yourself to change this plan as your circumstances change. Doing so will enable you to make sure you keep giving the right amount and at the right time, no matter what happens.

            6. Be Smart

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              You’re a smart shopper. You don’t buy the first thing you see on television or in the store window. You take the time to gain confidence that you’ll get what you want, for example by reading reviews from well-known websites. Similarly, super-donors don’t give to the first charity that puts a commercial on television, or has volunteers going door-to-door or standing in the street and asking for money. In fact, super-donors know that the charity that spends its money on commercials and volunteer time on gathering donations is not using those resources to make an impact in the world. Super-donors read reviews of charities by reputable charity evaluators. For example, GiveWell provides extensive research and makes recommendations for the kind of charities that make the most powerful and positive impact on the world in various cause areas. The Life You Can Save provides not only recommendations, but also an Impact Calculator that can help you see right away what kind of impact your giving can make! Using such tactics will help you make sure that you make the impact you want on the world with your generosity and kindness.

              7. Be Effective

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                You can also gain confidence about your shopping decisions by talking to other smart shoppers. Those shoppers are generally glad to give you advice – they feel good helping you make wise shopping decisions and get to share their knowledge! Similarly, you can talk to super-donors to ensure that your generous donations are going to the best place. More broadly, they can share lots of strategies for being a super-donor. To talk to super-donors, in-person or online, simply out the phrase “Effective Altruism” into a search engine. Effective Altruists practice the strategies described above, and have many in-person and virtual forums where they discuss effective giving. They form community groups centered around being a super-donor and would be happy to share about their strategies for being super-donors with you!

                8. Be Proud

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                  Super-donors are not only committed to giving intentionally, but also proud of doing so! They spread this message of the benefits of being a super-donor to others they know. They know that doing so helps other people have better lives by getting rid of that niggling doubt at the back of their heads, and also channels their giving in the most effective fashion. Following this strategy, for example by wearing t-shirts such as the one above, starting conversations with friends and family, as well as sharing this article with others, can help you multiply the kind of positive impact you have on the world!

                  Featured photo credit: Businesswoman via flickr.com

                  More by this author

                  Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

                  President and Co-Founder at Intentional Insights; Disaster Avoidance Consultant

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                  Last Updated on August 16, 2018

                  The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

                  The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

                  No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

                  Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

                  Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

                  A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

                  Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

                  In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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                  The power of habit

                  A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

                  For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

                  This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

                  The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

                  That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

                  Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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                  The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

                  Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

                  But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

                  The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

                  The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

                  A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

                  For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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                  But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

                  If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

                  For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

                  These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

                  For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

                  How to make a reminder works for you

                  Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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                  Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

                  Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

                  My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

                  Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

                  I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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