By Betsy Brush Hahn

Guest Columnist

 EDITOR’S NOTE: “Give Well” is a weekly column written by Dawn Franks of Your Philanthropy, Betsy Brush Hahn of the Women’s Fund and Kyle Penney of the East Texas Communities Foundation.

Many of you know the quote from Aristotle “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. The concept fits well with giving to organizations or causes, where your gift allows you to be part of something bigger than just yourself.

I want to encourage you to set a giving goal this year. As a donor, I believe you will get more out of the experience and it can improve the quality of your gift, whether it is time, money or both. Your plans may range from making a monthly gift or a one-time gift later in the year.

Setting a giving goal at the beginning of the year will increase your focus on the issue or organization for the next twelve months. You can experience the good feelings that come with giving all year too. More importantly, it can help you become a better giver.

We can’t give to everything and often, it is difficult to decide what we will not give to. Setting a giving goal will help you focus on what you value most or where you are best able to help. Deciding on what you will do also means you have decided what not to do. This clarity saves everyone time and energy.

You won’t have to read and puzzle over every piece of mail or request that comes throughout the year. You can let friends and organizations know upfront what you will do this year and save them the time and effort involved in asking for gifts. Organizations will know whether to count on you or focus their development efforts elsewhere. For you, that time can be spent keeping up with the activities and events related to your giving goals.

We often give not just money, but our time and talents, which magnify the value of gifts for organizations. Committee or board volunteers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to nonprofit organizations. Committed volunteers who follow through, even more so. Conversely, agreeing to give or do something and not following through strains the organization. Staff and other volunteers spend valuable time following up, trying to discern where you stand. Be upfront if you have not yet decided or changed your mind about a decision. Others committed to the cause will appreciate your respect for their time.

What if you don’t have a specific charitable passion? There are plenty of opportunities to explore giving areas. With experience comes wisdom. Of course, I can’t resist the opportunity to mention The Women’s Fund, which gives to a variety of causes. There are many others as well – ranging from The United Way to the East Texas Communities Foundation. Also, conversations with Dawn Franks of Your Philanthropy, are always thought provoking and helpful in clarifying giving decisions.

Again, I encourage you to set a giving goal and this year, begin with the end in mind. When you reflect on 2015, what do you hope your giving will have accomplished for you as a donor and the organizations you choose? If “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, what do you hope the big picture will look like this time next year? What part will you play in making that happen?

Betsy Brush Hahn is president of The Women’s Fund. The mission of The Women’s Fund is to leverage the philanthropic capacity of women as a catalyst for positive change. All women are welcome to join. To learn more, visit