How to donate your dollars in Seattle and make ‘a real, tangible impact’

This is the third part of a series we’re calling our Evergrey Giving Audit, which connected readers with three local giving prosFrank Nam of the Seattle Foundation, Burke Stansbury of Social Justice Fund Northwest, and Ben Reuler of Seattle Works. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

Reader Matthias Broecheler moved to Seattle, by way of Northern California and Germany, in 2014. He works as the director of engineering for a tech company in the Bay Area and earns more than $150,000 annually.

His mission: finding and connecting with small, local organizations working on causes he cares about.

Issues of interest: community health, equity, education, and the environment

Budgets:

  • Available to volunteer between 10 and 20 hours per month
  • Currently able to donate about $5,000 each year

Matthias’ goals:

  • Connect with an org that delivers.“I feel like a lot of giving opportunities (in particular the time-based ones) are more about making the giver feel better about themselves,” he said. “I would like to see a connection between my giving and effecting real, systemic change.”
  • Find small groups making the most of their $. Before the audit, Matthias said it was sometimes difficult to volunteer with smaller grassroots orgs because he felt it would’ve been more helpful to “donate money so they can hire somebody to do the work.”

Matthias’ three key takeaways from his giving audit:

  • Get comfortable with trust-based philanthropy. “For somebody like me who likes to have control, it’s hard to just say ‘okay’” when it comes to not knowing how his donation will be spent, Matthias said. “At the end of the day, you have to trust them.” Pro-tip from Ben:“Be thoughtful, but don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. If there are some local organizations responding to some real issues, trust they are the experts and give them the benefit of the doubt.”
  • Support small orgs that align with your priorities. Before his audit, Matthias said his most recent donations had been to well-supported national groups like the American Civil Liberties Union — places he called “safe bets.” Now he’s looking locally to find small orgs where his money can be transformative. Pro-tip from Burke: Donating to big orgs can feel like you’re only adding a drop to a full bucket. But donations to small, scrappy nonprofits can help them make huge changes, he said.
  • The importance of a great board member. Matthias said he’d never previously considered joining a board. Now, he says, “it seems like the time commitment is in line with what I can give without burning out [and] where I can contribute in a meaningful way using skills from my career.”

What’s next for Matthias?

Since his giving audit, Matthias said he’s committed to identifying, researching, and cutting checks for several orgs in the Seattle area tackling the issues near and dear to him. He’s signed up to be an annual donor to the Social Justice Fundfor its work on equity issues and he’s looking into supporting the Northwest Abortion Access Fund and Mary’s Place.

In the spring, he plans to learn more about what it takes to serve on a nonprofit board at Seattle Works’ Bridge workshop so he can pursue joining a board for a local org. He says that’ll help him see up close how his giving can help our city.

And that $5,000 he’s looking to donate annually? He’s challenging himself to double that in 2019. 💪

Huge thanks to Matthias, Frank, Ben, and Burke — and auditees Naya and Neroli Price — for being part of our giving audit experiment. We’ll update more from our auditees as we hear more about their plans. Thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for making our Evergrey Giving Guide possible — and check out the rest of our Giving Guide.