While Black Friday and Cyber Monday may kick off the holiday buying frenzy, to me one of the best things about the holidays (besides pumpkin pie!) is giving to causes that I’m passionate about. In fact, I get more in return than what I give. And while I support charitable organizations throughout the year, giving during the holidays adds extra sparkle to the season.
Charitable giving can be an important part of just about everyone’s life. And it’s not just about giving money; it’s about having the commitment to help others—no matter your age or resources. But to turn this idea into reality, we all have to take action. Here are some ideas to help you make your own contribution this year.
Put your passions into play
With so many worthy causes out there, choosing which charities to support can be the first big challenge. So start with what’s important to you. Are you passionate about education? The environment? Social justice? Has a specific organization made a difference in your life or the life of a loved one? Here’s a chance to give back and make positive change.
You might also look to your own community. Whether it’s a local food bank, a scholarship fund for a neighborhood school, or a struggling homeless shelter, making a financial contribution that will not only benefit a cause you believe in but also have a local impact can give your donation extra meaning. You can make a difference.
Most people can’t give to every organization they’d like to support or make a big donation all at once. To narrow down your personal list of favorite charities, first think about where your donations will make the most difference, then choose the top three. You may want to do a little extra research by comparing charities at an independent online rating service such as charitynavigator.org or charitywatch.org.
Once you’ve made your choices, decide on a dollar amount you can afford and apportion that money accordingly. You don’t have to give the same amount to each charity nor do you have to give all the money at the same time. For instance, you could consider making an ongoing donation over a specified time period rather than a one-time contribution.
Charitable Giving Tip: Check with your employer to see if they’ll match your donation. Some employers encourage employee giving with matching contributions. Max your gift by maxing the match!
Giving isn’t only about money. There are many ways to give, including giving your time and expertise. For instance, I know many people who regularly contribute their time and skills to elementary school reading programs, senior centers, or neighborhood outreach services. Others with computer skills, accounting experience or writing talent have found organizations in need of their specific expertise.
From serving meals at your church to delivering library books to the homebound, there are myriad ways to get involved either on a one-time or ongoing basis—and there are countless organizations that need volunteers to accomplish their goals.
Make it a family affair
Whether you’re giving money or time, getting your kids involved can be an effective way to share your values and expose them to philanthropy and volunteerism. Consider picking a charity as a family and having your children contribute a bit of their allowance each week or volunteer together at the organization. Kids are often particularly interested in animal shelters and food banks, so be sure to take their lead when selecting an organization to support. You’ll be surprised at how creative and engaged they will be. They’ll be surprised by how much fun they’ll have.
Join in and share the spirit
Whether your own charitable giving is a once-a-year event or you share your good fortune year-round, I hope you’ll join me in making it a part of your personal holiday tradition.
Whether it’s time or money, a lot or a little, to me, charitable giving represents a generosity of spirit that can enrich us all.
Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, is a Certified Financial Planner® professional and president of Charles Schwab Foundation.