Season of Giving Guide

Many non-profits will be asking you for money this season. Covenant House Michigan is one of them. Beyond just asking you for money, I want to lend my expertise from 30+ years of leadership in nonprofits to help you navigate your giving during this season.

There are over one million public charities registered in the U.S. and all of them are worthy and deserving of time, support, and attention. But one person cannot emotionally or financially support all or even a fraction of that number. I want to get you thinking about what is the most meaningful for you to support.

To start, I always feel that we have room to devote support to three charities; obviously, some people do more and some people do less, but three is a safe place to start.

What’s been most meaningful to you?

One of the easiest ways to think about this is what issues do you vote on? What issues make-or-break a candidate for you? I find these issues to be the core of someone’s beliefs and often provide the easiest match to a meaningful non-profit. Education, our armed services and veterans, the environment are all examples of issues that easily match up with non-profits.

Something else to think about is what are you most grateful for? Is it your education and therefore your alma mater is high on your charity list? Is it your health after a significant medical issue and therefore the hospital that treated you draws your attention for donations? Is it your church, and all the work they do?

For me, and what brought me to Covenant House Michigan, is the absolute gratitude I have for a warm bed and a four walls around me keeping me safe. My gratitude extends to the unbelievable love and support I have had from my family that has guided me to this point in my life. When I see young people who have never known a safe home or a loving family, I know I have to support them.

Size & Efficacy

Sizing up a charity is a personal decision as well. Would you like your dollar stretched across the world to aid those in need? Or would you like to keep your giving hyper-local, even just making an impact on one neighborhood?

One of the biggest misconceptions I deal with is understanding the national non-profit and its local chapters. American Cancer Society, Make-A-Wish, and even Covenant House Michigan are examples of charities with a national HQ guiding decisions but where the money stays local.

I ask you to do your research. If you’re about to support or currently support a non-profit, ask their employees where the money goes and how efficient they are with your donations, they should be able to tell you.

Check out They provide a rating and a wealth of information based on a nonprofits’ tax information. In my tenure at Covenant House Michigan, I’ve kept our rating at the four out of four-star rating. They give that rating based on financials and transparency and offer up a list of metrics they are guided by, like program and administrative expenses, fundraising expenses, fundraising efficiency, and more. I know how rigorous the standards are and recommend them as a good guide for your giving.

What makes my cut? My local NPR station and the Michigan Humane Society top my list (see my rescue, Stella, featured in our Holiday video). But of course, I also financially give back to Covenant House Michigan. I have been in human services for a long time and every day I am grateful I work for CHM. Our unique wrap-around services help guide young adults, at such a fragile and critical time in their lives, transition into a stable and self-sufficient adulthood.

I wish you the best this Holiday season and we hope Covenant House Michigan makes your list.