How to stretch your charitable giving this holiday season

With more and more individuals in need of assistance from charitable organizations and a pronounced drop in donations for charities of all kinds, it is important to find a way to make the most of your charitable giving.

Smart Money Magazine compiled a list of 7 ways to stretch your charitable gifts which will increase the impact of your gift, even if you need to cut back on the amount.

The 7 ways of making the most of your charitable donation are:
  • Giving to the neediest organization
  • Give more than cash
  • Use sites that offer matching donations
  • Check financial records
  • Seek reputable outfits
  • Skip the middlemen
  • Stay Focused

These are all excellent pieces of advice for making the most of your charitable giving. Working at a non-profit organization for the last three years has given me the insight to add to a few of these and contribute my own advice on charitable giving.

Perhaps the most practical advice from Smart Money is to stay focused; by contributing to 1-2 charities, your donations, whatever their size, are easier to process and put to use. It costs charities the same amount to enter and process a $10 gift as it does a $100 gift. By splitting your giving up between 10 organizations, you've just increased the cost of handling your gift by five! This isn't to discount small gifts, which do make a difference, but simply to illustrate the effectiveness of giving two larger gifts rather than ten $10 gifts.

One caveat to this list regarding middlemen and phone-a-thon solicitations is that many higher education institutions will enlist free student labor to take pledges, which means the charity gets the entire portion of the donation. If you receive a phone call asking for a donation and you are unsure if the entire amount will go to the charity, simply ask the caller how you can get directly in touch with the charity.

Another way that you can help your gift go further at the intended charity is to make your donation by check or cash rather than through a credit or debit card. While this is slightly more cumbersome than clicking "donate" online, it avoids the credit card processing fees that charities have to pay, increasing the impact for gifts of any size.

Finally check with your human resources department to see if you can instantly double or triple your gift through an employer match. More than 15,000 companies participate in some form of matching gift program, and in most cases the process is as easy as signing your name! If you'd rather go online than call your HR rep, you can see if your company is included in the matching gift directory at your charity or use the American Cancer Society's look up page.

Whatever your charitable giving is this holiday season, try and remember that it often doesn't take much to help out someone else. Whether you give every month to your college scholarship fund, donate canned goods to your local pantry or throw your change into a collection pot; it all helps someone! If you can't donate; try having a conversation with a neighbor or co-worker about a common cause like hunger, the results of simply getting it out in the open can oftentimes make a huge difference.

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