How to Find People Who Give Away Money

From time to time you read in a newspaper or see a segment in a TV news program a heartwarming story about a wealthy person's generosity: A headline may read, "Millionaire Helps Family in Hard Times." Such expressions of kindness are not always reported, and they may be much more common than the occasional human interest article indicates. People who — day in and day out — work to raise funds for charitable causes and nonprofit organizations follow an etiquette that is part natural instinct and part well-established protocol.

Avoid the practice of simply targeting every person known or thought to be a millionaire. A bank president, a doctor, or a thrifty retiree might be a millionaire. Many if not most most have become wealthy by managing their income and investments in a responsible way, often including a structured approach to giving back to their communities.

Billionaires also give in an organized way. They do not indiscriminately hand out cash to anyone who asks for it. Usually they give through a foundation. Some foundations offer help to individuals, but even then only for financial assistance toward a carefully planned and well-defined objective that in some way benefits others.

To find foundations that give to individuals, consult the Foundation Grants for Individuals, which contains descriptions of more than 6,000 foundation and public charity programs that assist students, artists, researchers and other individual grant seekers. It is maintained by the Foundation Center. It is not free online, but larger libraries may have it in their reference section or in an online database. You may access it only through a library. Make notes or printouts of the foundations you think might help your cause.

Organized efforts to help a family or individual through extraordinary circumstances — such as homelessness resulting from a fire or a natural disaster — often turn to news outlets, asking that the local newspaper, radio station or TV news team do a human interest article publicizing the victim's plight.