For Donors – Now is the Time to Plan Your Year-End Giving

For Donors – Now is the Time to Plan Your Year-End Giving

[A version of this article ran as a guest editorial in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader on September 2, 2011]

Charities look to the end of each year as their best opportunity to raise needed funds to feed the hungry, house the homeless, provide health care for the sick, and help children grow into educated, healthy, and productive adults. Charities entertain us with visual arts, educational experiences, and performances that enrich our lives and communities.

Most people give to charity, and most give to more than one charity. In fact, about 75% of all US residents give to charity, with each household giving more than $1,100 a year. On average, corporations give about 1.3% of their revenues to charity each year (some businesses give 5% or more). Nationwide, people, businesses, and foundations give more than $300 billion annually.

As we enter the giving season, here are four tips for everyone who gives gifts, whether small or large, whether personal or corporate.

First, give, and give generously. Charities need help now more than ever. Costs are rising and more people are in need. Many charities run very tight budgets, and small reductions in giving or increases in demand for services can cause a charity to encounter a real crisis. If you can afford it, consider giving even more this year than in the past.

Second, budget your giving. You’ll feel a lot better about considering a gift if you know that you have money set aside for giving. Whether it’s a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of your income, setting a specific number and sticking to it does wonders.

Third, choose your charities and causes. What causes are you passionate about? Do you want to support large organizations or smaller ones? How many gifts do you want to give? How many causes do you want to support this year? Which charities do you believe really make a difference for the people and issues you care about?

Feel free to ask questions, talk with friends, and demand good information before making your choices. Many surveys show that people are most likely to give, and give more, to charities they know well and feel good about helping.

Fourth, leave some room in your budget for impulse giving and crisis giving. Don’t allocate all your gifts in advance. There may be a sudden need to support disaster victims, or you may find a really good opportunity to support a cause that you hadn’t anticipated when making your budget. Keeping part of your budget open to ideas also adds to the fun of giving.

Communities across the country are served by great people in great charities doing good for our neighbors. Putting some thought and planning into your charitable giving helps you feel better about giving and helps charities do better in challenging times. By the way, it isn’t too soon to think about next year’s giving!