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June 25, 2022
Giving Back Offers Guidance to Nonprofits as Well as Donors
Elizabeth Ziemba
Elizabeth Ziemba
One of the most important things that nonprofits can do is educate potential donors on how to give. Recognizing how difficult this can be, Elizabeth Ziemba, herself an executive director of a local nonprofit, tackles the issue in her newly published book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Giving Back.

Charitable giving in the United States continues to be big business. The good news is that total charitable giving reached an estimated $307.65 billion in 2008, the second consecutive year that the number topped $300 million. The less-than-good news is that two-thirds of public charities receiving donations saw decreases in 2008, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

Higher total giving coupled with declines reported by public charities suggests that donors are consolidating their gifts. This heightened competition between nonprofits means those organizations need to understand donors ”“ and donors need to understand how nonprofits work. That’s where Giving Back can help.

The book’s jacket makes its case, stating: “You’re no idiot, of course. Giving is important...but deciding which causes to support can be a real challenge when there are so many out there.”

Ziemba knows whereof she writes. An experienced lawyer, she operated an international recruitment business and conducted the research for establishing SHARED, Inc., a Brookline nonprofit that aims to improve health for the world's poorest people by increasing the availability of essential medicines and vaccines.

Giving, she suggests, should be done under the framework of a personal giving plan, which should be driven by a mission statement. Underscoring the point, she quotes Bill Gates: “Giving money effectively is almost as hard as earning it in the first place.”

Don’t have money to give? According to Ziemba, that’s not a problem. She outlines how to give money when you don’t have any, and, just as important, how to give your time and talent.

This brief, highly readable guide to nonprofit giving takes nothing for granted by providing information on how nonprofits operate day-to-day and outlining how they differ from the for-profit world. Many donors may not fully appreciate these points, for which the book provides a good primer.

While Giving Back is aimed at donors, those involved in nonprofit fundraising, especially if they haven’t been formally trained, will find it to be a useful guide in terms of helping to educate prospects. To that end, Ziemba includes good overviews on how to make bequest (i.e., a gift of personal property made through a will) and how to continue to make charitable gifts beyond your lifetime.

Finally, a chapter on “How Do I know Where My Giving Goes” will help nonprofits address questions that are frequently on the minds of current and prospective donors.

Giving Back is available by clicking here.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

August 2009
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