By Barbara Bass
Women’s Fund of Smith County

As my husband and I sat and watched television, a commercial came on. You know, the one where the voice is creating a sense of despair as it describes and shows pictures of neglect for whatever the cause and as it tries to guilt you into giving. This led us to a lively discussion on fundraising, the costs involved, and why we give. We like many of you want to donate to great causes that we are passionate about. Yes, we want to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and other great causes. But, at the same time, we want to know that the nonprofit we give to is a good steward of our hard-earned dollar. Is our donation actually funding the mission of the nonprofit?

I grew up in a household where we were expected to get involved; to help our neighbors – good old hands-on volunteering. What I wasn’t taught was how to give our money to nonprofits who spend it wisely to fulfill missions we want to support.

So how do we not just give, but give well? Giving is the easier part. It’s about giving to the causes we believe in, and sometimes it is supporting the causes our friends are involved in. The harder part is the giving well.

Since adulthood, I’ve been involved in basically every aspect of giving and volunteering with nonprofits. I recall early on giving to the women’s mission programs at my church. I watched as my small donation was added to those from the other women at my church, which was combined with our church district, then with our conference and finally with donations across the United States. The result was amazing. By the time my small gift made it to the national level, we had raised several million dollars for our mission projects. That example has stayed with me and reminds me that if I do my part and you do your part, together we can make great things happen.

But, back to my questions. What is the key to giving? And, how do we give well? For me, why I give is all about the cause. It’s knowing that I have been blessed so I donate to causes that help others who are struggling. It’s helping nonprofits that meet special needs, like hunger or housing, providing scholarships to students so they don’t come out of college with thousands of dollars of debt, or supporting something I enjoy like our local symphony orchestra. It’s an emotional connection and a relational connection.

The ‘how part’ means doing a little more work before I decide where to donate. I can start with the nonprofit’s website; volunteer for an inside look or ask friends about organizations they are involved in and why. With internet access, I can also look up the nonprofit’s tax return to see how much they are spending on the mission versus on overhead.

Our Tyler and East Texas area is a caring community and region. Look around you; see the needs; find out which nonprofit is helping with the ones you are most passionate about. Then, do your homework so that your gifts combined with my gift and others will multiple like the story of the loaves and fishes from my faith. Do your part. Life is better together as we have been reminded through this recent isolation and emotional drought. Together we can make a difference. Together we can change the world starting right here, right now in our own community.

Barbara Bass, former mayor of Tyler, is a fundraising auctioneer and consultant. She is a charter member of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, a collective giving circle of more than 300 women with a mission of transforming our community by funding programs that enrich the lives of women and children. Any woman with a giving heart is welcome to join our organization. Please visit for information about membership and outreach.