Check out these practical pointers for holiday giving, so you know your time and money are spent wisely.
There’s a reason the months of November and December see the biggest share of charitable donations. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas strikes many Americans as inherently prone to generosity. Holiday giving, the official term for the surge in seasonal donations and volunteerism, is a year-end trend we hope never goes away. Whether your goal this winter is to help others enjoy a hearty holiday meal, provide gifts for kids who might otherwise not receive any, or sponsor a warm bed for a person without a permanent one, you want to make sure your time and money are spent wisely.
Most of us have a finite amount of resources we’d like to expend in our holiday giving efforts. Make your contribution impactful to you by selecting a cause that you truly care about and that lines up with your personal values. If increasing access to economic and professional opportunity for women always prompts you to open your (digital) checkbook, for example, organizations that support women through their career journey might be a good fit. Maybe you’re a proponent of green living, and you really care about curbing pollution, so urban greening and sustainability orgs normally get your dollars. Pro tip: Don’t overthink this part! Go with your instinct — there’s no wrong answer.
Like so many areas of life, a little can go a long way to a person or organization in need. If you have an extra $20 to spend — great! More like $200? Even better! $2,000, whoa, that’s awesome! Just don’t talk yourself out of donating because you think the figure’s too small. If you want to cap your holiday giving commitment at a few dollars, though, consider a monthly investment. Just like your Prime membership or your Spotify subscription, you likely won’t miss $15/month or $20/month, but you may have to scrape to find $150 to $200, especially during gifting season.
Holiday giving isn’t just about money. Many organizations need manpower to help behind-the-scenes to stem increased need in the winter months. That could be helping to organize clothing donations to a shelter or sort non-perishables at a food bank. If you’ve volunteered somewhere in the past and really enjoyed the experience, reach back out! Chances are, they’d love to have an extra hand for a few hours this season. If you want help finding places to volunteer, check Idealist.org or similar sites to search in your area.
Transparency is key to feeling secure and confident in your charitable donations. Beyond the general mission of the organization (see #1), you want to also be assured that your contribution will be accounted for and used well. A lot of local charities don’t have the staff hours to communicate individually with small donors about where the money goes, though. Holiday giving donations made through ALMA include a brief summary of what your dollars bought, in addition to a receipt for tax-deductible donations. (Check out an example of donor reports.)
There’s no downside to holiday giving, so chances are you’ll want to keep it up. If the cause is important to you, maybe add a monthly or quarterly line item in your 2019 budget to donate again, or set a calendar reminder to reach out about volunteer opportunities. Follow the nonprofits, and brands that support them (hint, ALMA, hint) on social media so you’re the first to know about new programs or donor events. And finally, spread the word to your local network! Some companies have donation matches for non-profits that their employees support, so hit up HR to find out if that’s one of your perks, too. The next time someone you know mentions wanting to get involved in the cause, let them know you donate to awesome organizations and shoot them a referral.