Seems like everyone has their hands outreached this time of year. Salvation Army bells ring as we enter stores, our mail is full of charitable requests, and it seems every organization in which our children or friends are involved is selling candy, holiday greenery, popcorn – you name it – for the sake of their charity. There is indeed an ocean of need out there, particularly this year, and it often seems that our small donations are hardly making a dent. How can we give enough to really make a difference? How can give with pure intention versus from a place of obligation, guilt, or in some cases, ego?
Three thoughts to keep in mind as we open our hearts and pocketbooks to those causes which stir us at our deepest level:
- First, decide how much you can afford to give. Frankly, the past few years I pushed my financials to give more than I could really afford. This is not healthy or smart, as we need to remember sustainability is a key dimension of our charitable attitudes. For some, this may be 1% of our annual income, and for others it could be susbstantially more. I ran across an excellent finanacial management site: www.thelifeyoucansave.com, which has a segment under “pledge” which can help us determine what percentage is advised for our level of income.
- Secondly, we need to determine what charities are most important to us. Most of us can’t contribute to all passions which tug at our hearts. This is where we can get into trouble; as before you know it we can give and give without realizing we have given way beyond our means. Just like with all our other budgetary objectives, we need to prioritize which charities are most important to us, what we value, and which needs are most crticial to us and factor this into our budgetary number.
- Finally, we need to follow our plan, and if we really want to make a difference, we want to follow-up with our charities in 2011 to see how our money was used, what benefits were realized, and assess whether we believe our money was put to good use.
It doesn’t matter if we donate $1.00, $100.00 or $100,000.00, we can individually and collectively make a difference. And most importantly, we need to remember, that giving of our time is equally valued. Give an hour at a soup kitchen, wrapping packages at “Santa’s Store” or visiting a home for the elderly. Our hearts, minds and spirits will be richer through giving, in whatever form this takes.