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Question:  What if you had $10,000 to give away tomorrow? 

What would you do as a philanthropist?




Early in my career, I worked for an organization that gave every staff person $10,000 at the end of the year to give away to a charity of their choosing. 

This was my first true experience in philanthropy. All of a sudden I had $10,000, all to myself. It was my choice to do with it as I pleased.  I never had so much money before. I could give it all to one organization, or make $1,000 gifts to 10 different groups. Really, the options were endless.

And that was the problem. The options were endless. According to the NCCS Table Wizard, there are currently over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States. Most of them are worthy causes. But which one was worthy of my support?  I was overcome with paralysis over the weight of my decision.

I had to break down the decision. The organization had to be small, with a budget under $200,000. $10,000 doesn’t do as much for a large national organization that is asking for $500,000+ grants. They couldn’t be too small, though, as to be unsustainable. For example, I knew a friend running a small environmental advocacy group. He was passionate about the cause, but it was really just him running the whole office, and he was clueless about organizational management. I knew the $10,000 would ultimately be wasted on him. The organization had to be local, so that I could see first hand the impact of my gift. I wanted the gift to be transformational – in that it would help the organization complete a project, or it would provide the momentum to allow them to receive more grants, or achieve a matching offer. 

There was a grassroots children’s education program that I volunteered for in my neighborhood, and they seemed like a perfect candidate. There was also the church that I grew up attending. They could certainly use the money. I hadn’t quite joined the board of the nonprofit group that I currently serve on, otherwise they would have been an obvious choice. 

It took a good 4 weeks of research and analysis before I finally reached a decision that I could be proud of.

How about you?  What do you support?

  • Is this choice obvious to you? Does it go to your church?  Your school?  Your favorite cause?
  • How much money do you normally budget towards philanthropy in a year? 

We like to think about how cool it would be to have all of this money to give away, yet we don’t reflect on the responsibility that comes with such a task. I think it’s a great exercise to go through.  I thank you for participating.

I’ll let you know my choice after I hear from you:

Name *


  1. You have to give it to a 501c3 organization 
  2. You can’t spend it on yourself or your family.
  3. You can give it to as many groups as you want. 
  4. I want a brief description (less than 500 words) of which organization you would support, and why. 
  5. Don’t let it take up too much of your time.  

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