Donating time, money, and goods are all great ways to engage with and support those in need. But how much should you be giving away? This is a highly personal decision that everyone must make for themselves. Here, we provide guidance to help you find the appropriate balance for your life and circumstance.
"Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask Before Assisting Others"
Do not give away what you cannot afford to be without. Prioritize paying your own expenses and building up an emergency fund against unexpected expenses in the future. Once that is done, you can decide how much of what remains in your budget you can donate.
Create a Budget and a Calendar
Consider your annual income and expenses and decide what you are comfortable setting aside for charitable giving. Remember, giving to a 501(c)(3) organization is tax-deductible. Determine when you'll make your gifts to the organizations you choose to support. Will it be mid-year when you receive your annual bonus? Will you set up a recurring monthly contribution? This arranged frequency is preferred by charities as it allows them to have a more informed idea of how much money they will have available to budget for the projects ahead.
Similarly, decide how much time in a year can you afford to spend volunteering. Can you book a weekly slot at a food bank? Commit to donating blood every two months? This decision will be as personal as your calendar and lifestyle.
Then, take a few moments to think about your passions, values, and beliefs. What do you love? What frustrates you? If you could be remembered for changing the world in one way, what would it be?
Once you've identified what you’re passionate about, you can find an organization that aligns with your values and goals. Use Charity Navigator's search tool help you find your perfect match.
Never feel like your gift is too small to make a difference. While major gifts are an important revenue source for most nonprofits, individual donations are also necessary. A diverse support base makes charities more sustainable.
We recommend limiting the number of charities you support. Rather than supporting 10 organizations with $10, consider supporting 2 organizations with $50. This is more beneficial to the charities and increases your investment in their work.
Donating items like books, toys, clothing, eyeglasses, and pet supplies, is a great way to support charities on a limited budget.
Books and toys can be hard to part with, but knowing they'll have a great second life can make it easier! Check out our post on donating these items to a local organization to help a neighbor in need.
The next time you clean out your closet, create two piles. In the first, put clothes you don’t wear because they are stained, damaged, or too worn, and plan to discard them. In the second, put gently used clothes that you no longer wear, and plan to donate them. Often, a local thrift shop or human services organization will accept them. You can use Charity Navigator’s Advanced Search Tool to find an organization in your area.
If you wear glasses, consider gathering your old, unused ones and donating them to a charitable organization that provides prescription glasses to those in need.
Finally, for all of the animal lovers out there, many local animal shelters will accept donations of old pet toys, unused bags of food and litter, and even old blankets and towels. Take a look at our list of items to consider donating to your local shelter.
Giving is highly personal, and your budget and priorities will likely shift throughout your life. New jobs, new family members, new opportunities, and new obligations will all impact how much of your time, money, and belongings you can give. Return to this guide as your life changes to reassess your giving plan.