It’s that time of year! Halloween is here. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa will all be here before you know it. Celebrations with family and friends will fill our homes, churches and synagogues, classrooms, and offices. And your mailboxes, email accounts, phones and social media platforms will also soon be inundated with those early Black Friday deals and holiday shopping coupons!
Somewhere in between the celebrations and the shopping, we will also be hearing from a lot of amazing nonprofit organizations providing much needed services to those in our community who struggle and need the help of their neighbors and community. They are hoping we listen. They are hoping we will respond. They are counting on our help.
This season of charitable giving can be overwhelming. Most of us will undoubtedly reach a point of frustration with the flurry of year-end letters, emails, social media posts and phone call solicitations as charities compete for our attention in the coming weeks. But please do not begrudge nonprofits for their efforts to attract our attention. It’s important that they do. According to Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index, more than forty percent of all charitable giving takes place in the last quarter of the year. 40 PERCENT! Last year twelve percent of all gifts were given in the last three days of December. Even those of us who are not great with math can appreciate how important these next few months will be for those organizations we depend on to make our community a better place.
For many donors, navigating this season of giving can be an overwhelming. Choosing among the flood of appeals can often lead to an undisciplined, shotgun-like approach to giving where we respond quickly to the touching images and pictures or well-designed, well-written letters. There is nothing misguided about these types of appeals. And most of the nonprofits who invest in year-end fundraising strategies are providing meaningful, mission-focused services. But is a scattered approach really the best way to share what you have with those you want to help? Or is there a better way?
Let me suggest you start by creating your own giving plan. Spend some time learning about causes you are interested in and researching the organizations that are doing good work. If they are local, call and set a time when you can visit their program to see for yourself the difference their services are making. If they are statewide or national, use tools like Guidestar or Charity Navigator to understand how they operate, how they manage their finances, and what kind of impact they are having. If you like what you see, spend some time reviewing your own budget and decide what you can give and when you want to give it. Perhaps you can sign up for a monthly giving program with your favorite charities to avoid the chaos of the next end-of-year appeal season. If you are in a position to make a large gift, make sure it is structured in a way that offers the most flexibility to the organization while still meeting your philanthropic goals.
Whatever you give, and whenever you give it, do it wisely with a joyful heart. Be intentional. Be generous. Make an impact.