How much do you really think about and plan for your charitable contributions each year? If you’re like most people, the answer is very little. You have three close friends who are doing charity rides; giving to your college makes you feel closer to that wonderful, carefree time of your life; and maybe you sit on the Board of a nonprofit organization. So you try to participate in all you can, spreading money around mostly on a reactive basis. This reactive giving is what the majority of us do. It’s giving when asked. We’re all guilty of it, and unless you want to be callous and refuse when your 8 year old niece asks if you can sponsor her jumping rope so she can help a friend’s mother pay for a heart transplant, it’s impossible to avoid.
But you CAN plan for it. It’s the planning that will shift you from reactive giving into proactive giving. All that’s required is to think about what’s important to you. Set a budget and establish categories. Not only does this planning help you keep your household budget intact, it forces you to think about the causes and organizations that really matter to you. Set aside a percentage of your “giving budget” for reactive donations because you know they will come at you, but if you have a budget for them, you’ll be better equipped to identify how much to give. Not only will you feel empowered by identifying your priorities, you will also have a way to say “no” or “not this year”.
Everyone’s priorities are different. For most, there’s an emotional connection to the organizations you support. For others, it’s based on relationships (which I would argue is still really about an emotional connection). Still others use logic and focus on helping solve a problem or support an issue (and again, I’d argue the majority of those are still based on an emotional connection).
How do you prioritize your giving? Have you tried to be strategic about your giving?