Around this time of year, I find clients receiving an influx of mail from charitable organizations soliciting donations. It can be difficult to sort through the mail and make decisions about how much to give and which organizations to support. At times, discarding the mail can be a challenge and often leaves you feeling guilty.
My solution to this problem is to establish what I call a giving strategy. By having a plan and sticking to it, you will have the confidence that you have made the level of donations that make you feel good and you can be comfortable with. Having a plan and being comfortable with what & where you choose to give can help take the guilt and stress out of not responding to other requests.
Here are Some Tips for a Successful Giving Strategy:
How Much to Give
Set a budget each year for charitable giving. Determine how much of your income you would like to set aside. Then, choose the top causes or charities that you would like to support, and assign a percentage to each of them. Keep an amount dedicated to discretionary giving, so that you can give small amounts to the boy scouts selling wreaths or drop extra change in the collection bins at checkout lanes if you feel moved to do so.
Dealing with Donation Requests
Make use of your giving strategy when handling calls or in-person requests for donations. Being able to mention that you have a plan for donations already can give you the confidence to say no to other solicitations.
When to Give
Choose when you’d like to give; some people decide to make annual gifts, and others like to donate throughout the year. By making a timeline for when you will make your donations, you are less likely to forget if you already donated to a group. Charities will send repeated solicitations, especially if you have given in the past, so it can make keeping track of your donations challenging.
Know where your Contribution is REALLY Going
Do your research to make sure charities are reputable and that funds are going to the programs and causes that you are expecting to support. Give Well and Charity Watch are a couple of great resources.
Don’t be “guilted” into donating just because a group or organization sent you address labels, note cards, calendars, dollar bills, etc. It’s perfectly OK to recycle those items too!
Keep a Record
Make a folder for charitable donation receipts for each year and be sure to keep receipts for tax purposes, but also for your own memory and record-keeping. If a receipt is not available, make yourself a note on the inside of the folder so you remember.
Making Non-Cash Donations
Remember that you can make in-kind donations of unwanted or extra household goods, clothing, pantry items throughout the year as well. Make a bag, box, or staging area in your home and use it as an ongoing place to cycle things out to support charitable groups.
Already have a giving strategy? What works and what doesn’t? Share in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!