Six Steps to Maximize Your Charitable Giving

Still doing good, but with less. Most of us have been impacted in one way or another by the new economic reality. If we haven’t been personally affected we are concerned about what tomorrow may bring. We are all trying to stretch what we have even it’s simply to save more. Even though budgets may be tight it still makes us feel good to do good. Being able to support our favorite charities despite reduced resources is still a priority for most of us. How can you maximize what you can give?

Dollar bill folded into a heart

  1. Matching – Many companies offer matching programs to motivate employees to give. Sometimes they match dollar for dollar up to a certain amount. Be sure to check with both your and/or your spouse’s employer to see if they offer a matching program and review the list for your favorite causes.
  2. Maintain a budget for giving – It feels good to give but keep it within your means and use common sense. It doesn’t make sense to put charitable donations on credit cards or make charitable donations instead of paying off your own debt. It may make you feel good in the short term but it will only add to your own financial distress in the long run.  As they say charity begins at home. Make sure you are on track with your own financial planning before committing to charitable donations. Once you are on a cash basis and able to maintain an adequate emergency fund you will be in a better position to give even more.
  3. Hold something back – It seems that almost every year there is a natural disaster that comes out of nowhere and we are compelled to help. If you have already maxed out your charitable budget you won’t be in a position to give when the need is greatest.
  4. Look close to home – There are many national charities that have very moving giving campaigns. I remember one time driving home in torrential downpour listening to the St. Jude radio campaign…Become an angel… call now. Before I know it I’m pulling over to the side of the road, crying my eyes out, dialing my cell phone. Yes… I’ll be an angel. I want to help those kids. Who wouldn’t? There are many great causes. Consider giving to some favorite national charities as well as some good causes in your local community.
  5. Instead of a garage sale consider donating – Do you have a gently used coach or a spare mattress and box springs collecting dust in the garage? Maybe your husband is lobbying for an upgrade to your big screen t.v. before the big game. Consider donating these items to a family in need. Skip the hassle of a garage sale and call a local church group, the Salvation Army or deliver your goods to the Goodwill. For my husband and I this serves us well. The donations provide a much needed tax deduction for us and we can give generously to local charities. They may even pick up the items and save you the trouble.

Give of yourself not just your money – Charitable giving is more than just about cash donations. Time is money. Consider amping up your volunteer hours. Plan a family giving day and get the kids and grandkids involved. This year think about spending part of your holiday at the local soup kitchen helping neighbors in need. You may find that you value this more, eat less and spend less. Plan ahead and organize a team to walk or run in one of the many fitness oriented charitable events. My personal favorite is the Walk to end Alzheimer’s. There is one in almost every community. Instead of a ladies night out consider doing a walk together with your best girlfriends. Why not make it a block party and let the kids help you get all of the neighbors involved. When everyone gives a little it adds up to a lot. You can make a difference.

photo by: cdedbdme

About Mary Jo Lyons

Mary Jo Lyons, CFP® is a registered assitant with extensive expertise in designing financial strategies to help clients achieve their financial goals. Have a financial question? ASK MARY JO!

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