I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We are in the thick of the holiday season. You’ve gotten through Black Friday and Cyber Monday, now it’s time for Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is in its fourth year and was created to help celebrate and support philanthropy.
According to a survey conducted by crowdsourcing platform Razoo, one in two adults said they were likely or very likely to give to charity during the holidays. And even more striking was the stat that 47% of the unemployed were going to give as well.
Donating both time and money plays a big role in our household. Ben and I like to give during the year and often donate to charity instead of giving Christmas gifts. Your charitable donations should be as well thought out as any other part of your budget. Here are three things to focus on as you make your giving decisions this holiday season.
To me, this question was the most important. I really wanted to know the rationale for giving. It sounds like a strange question, but I wanted to make sure I gave “for the right reasons.”
I ended up asking a lot of people in my life – family, friends, coworkers – why they give. And of course, I got a variety of answers. Some people give because their parents always have, others give because their religion asks them to, and others still because they just feel the need to help.
When deciding for myself, the rationale that rang most true was giving to provide opportunities for those around me. I have benefited from many caring people who have given me the tools and opportunities to better my life. Consequently, I want to pay it forward for those around me. So whether it’s feeding the poor, providing shelter for the homeless, or fighting for marriage equality, my giving strives to empower others. And to me, that’s money well spent.
You should find what rationale rings true to you and understand why you want to give.
Where to Give?
This question was tricky because there are sooooo many charities. I had also heard horror stories about sham organizations or organizations that grossly mismanage their funds.
An obvious starting point is choosing a cause you feel passionate about. We’ve given to organizations that are money related (modestneeds.org), food related (chicagosfoodbanks.org), and GLBTQ focused (aidschicago.org).
After choosing the charities, research each organization on the Charity Navigator website. The site evaluates and rates different charities. It also provides in depth analysis of the charity’s budget, so you know exactly how the organization spends the money you donate.
How much to give?
Of course, the personal-finance nerd in me wanted to know a specific number that was standard to donate. I thought it would be easier to create space in my budget if I had a percentage of my income to build from.
I again looked to the web and asked my friends and family. I got a wide variety of answers: some people gave 1% of their gross income, others 10% of their net, and others just gave sporadically.
Even our government leadership varied widely. According to the Obamas’ 2014 tax returns, they gave almost 15% of their adjusted gross income to charity versus 2% for the Bidens. On average Americans give about 5% of their discretionary income.
Since I couldn’t find a standard amount of giving, I started with how much I could afford while still meeting my living expenses and savings goals. From there, I adjusted my other expenses to meet an amount I considered reasonable for charitable giving.
Give Efficiently and Effectively
As I learned, figuring out charitable gifts is a personal endeavor. But I urge you to really consider why, where, and how much to give rather than giving blindly. This type of focused giving will serve both you and your cause more effectively. For more giving tips, check out Charity Navigator’s tip page.