The Cost of Generosity: 6 Tips for Responsibly Donating to Charity

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

From the spare change you toss in a jar at the checkout or in a kettle at the holidays to a raffle ticket or box of cookies you purchase – opportunities to donate to worthy causes abound! Of course you want to feel generous by ‘sharing the wealth’ – but it might surprise you to discover how much money you actually give – a quarter or a dollar at a time. While donations are good for the soul, it’s as financially responsible to have a strategy for donations as it is for any other category of expenditure. Some ways to get a handle on the amount you donate to charity include:

1. Decide to which charities you wish to donate. Determine how you prefer to give: Would you rather spread it around a little here and a little there – or pick a handful of particularly meaningful charities to support to a more generous degree?

No matter to whom you donate, do some research to discover where the money they collect goes. A thoughtful donor makes certain that the charity she supports spends their donated funds responsibly. As a rule of thumb, go directly to the source rather than through administration levels that only serve to drain dollars from the charity itself.

2. Decide when to donate. Is there a time of year when your favorite charities experience greater need? Is there a time when your budget can support increased generosity? Regardless of when you donate, remember to keep receipts to which you can refer when filing your taxes, as charitable donations are tax-deductible.

3. Determine your donation budget:

  • Consult this handy Giving Calculator at Charity
  • Determine your disposable income – While you want to make donating a priority, you should not put your financial well-being in jeopardy to do so. Cover your expenses and savings goals, then allocate what remains towards those things about which you are passionate, like the causes you champion.
  • Consider your passion for the cause – Decide how much of your disposable income you want to donate based upon how much the cause(s) means to you.

4. Make it happen. Once you determine the right level of giving for yourself, budget your donations as a regular expense in order to be assured you can afford to give as much as you want and track where and when you donated.

5. Stick to that budget (as much as possible). No matter how cute that puppy or how desperate the situation, try to stick to your plan when worthy causes come to your attention to avoid letting your emotions wreck havoc with your donation budget. A good strategy may be to allocate a portion of that budget for the times when your resolve is weak or you’re taken off guard. Resist buying every candy bar a parent brings into work to benefit their child’s school but an occasional purchase will help you avoid being labeled a “cheapskate” who never donates.

6. Find creative (non-monetary) ways to donate. Charities need more than money to do their good works. Investigate alternative ways to augment your support by donating your time and/or talents. They may also need items or supplies you can provide. If they hold fundraisers, perhaps you can make something they can sell to generate funds.

It’s admirable to share your financial resources with worthy causes. The important thing is to be mindful of who you’re helping and how much you actually give. When you pay careful attention, your donation dollars can have the biggest impact on causes without causing you a financial burden.

Do you know how much you donate to charity?

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