November is here, and it seems that everyone is busy preparing for something.
Americans are preparing for an annual gathering of family and friends. Professional football players and their fans are preparing for the big game. Retailers and marketing companies are preparing to announce Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. And, we’re confident that a large segment of the U.S. is quietly preparing to give back this holiday season.
Charitable giving reached a record-breaking $427.71 billion in 2018, up 0.7% from the prior year. Likewise, individual contributions accounted for an estimated 68% of total giving. While these numbers are impressive, goodwill was expressed with more than money. Volunteering and civically related activities also reached an all-time high in 2018.
Benefits of Giving
When you give money or time to an individual in need or a charitable organization, the benefits of giving can extend well into the New Year.
Better General Health
Giving of your time and treasure can result in real life-affirming benefits. In fact, The Science of Generosity, a UC Berkeley white paper, points to several studies linking volunteering and other forms of generosity with better mental and physical health in older adults. Helping loved ones or strangers results in benefits that last beyond the moment of giving.
Boost Your Mood
One of the many benefit of giving is the emotional boost. Contrary to cultural messages that promote a focus on self to achieve personal happiness, looking outward may hold the key to positive emotions. Emotion®, an American Psychological Association journal, recently published a study that found an increase in positive emotions when subjects performed acts of kindness for others instead of themselves.
Lower Federal Income Taxes
The Internal Revenue Service allows eligible taxpayers to deduct charitable contributions made to qualified organizations. It’s possible to deduct up to 50% of your adjusted gross income. The organization type and how the donation is used will determine deductible limits. Please consult a professional tax advisor to confirm how charitable contributions will affect your tax liability.
Where Should I Donate Money This Season?
There are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. who would gladly accept your financial gift. With so many to choose from, it’s challenging to decide where you should donate and how much. Start by visiting a charity evaluation website like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch. They can help you quickly identify a cause close to your heart. Each uses an independent rating system that evaluates how organizations raise money and use it to support programs.
How Much Should I Contribute?
It might be tough to make a monetary donation without first having your own financial affairs in order. However, this can be taken care of by establishing and sticking to a monthly budget. After you’ve identified your total monthly net income and total expenses, you’ll know how much you can contribute to your favorite charity. Then, decide whether you want to make a larger one-time contribution or give smaller amounts throughout the year.
How Can I Schedule Regular Contributions?
To ensure that other holiday expenses don’t eat away at your good intentions, consider adding a regular contribution as an expense item to your budget. Ensure regular charitable contributions occur by:
- Setting up auto transfers from your checking account directly to the charity
- Enrolling in employer payroll deduction, which also has the potential for Employee Matching Gifts
- Signing up for charitable donations using your credit card
Each charity can provide details on how to become a monthly donor.
What If I Can’t Afford to Donate Money?
You can still be charitable and experience the benefits of giving without using cash, check, or credit. There are other ways to give back that are just as beneficial until your budget is strong enough to give financially.
Organizations such as VolunteerMatch help connect volunteers with nonprofits to make a difference in their communities. You can search by areas of interest to quickly connect with organizations that provide local or virtual volunteer opportunities. Your time is a precious gift.
When you don’t have several hours or a full day to volunteer, consider giving blood. The process should take less than 90 minutes. According to the American Red Cross, a single blood donation can save up to three lives. In addition to blood, the need for plasma, red blood cells, and platelets totals over 50,000 units daily. Your regular donation of blood can fill that need.
Donate Used Goods and Clothing
Turn your clutter into usable donations for thrift stores. Bring your used housewares and clothing to their drop off centers, and you can help change lives. If it’s more convenient, use a drop box location, such as Charity Clothing, to donate clothing and shoes.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we hope you’ll indulge in the many benefits of giving this holiday season, regardless of your account balance.
We believe in people helping people where it matters the most – right here at home.