We all want to live meaningful lives, filled with generosity and purpose. One way to live generously is to give financially, but how do you start donating and who do you give to? How do you give when your budget is tight? It may seem like giving financially is too difficult, but if you start giving now and make it a priority, you will begin to establish the life-long habit of philanthropy. You will experience the deep satisfaction and reward that comes from making a difference in the world and blessings others.
Here are 6 tips on how to start giving & living generously:
1. Start by giving regular, small amounts
Once you decide to donate, the next question is: How much? Around 89% of American households give to charity every year, donating on average 3% of their income*. If giving 3% works for you and your budget, start there! If 3% is too much, designate any percentage of your income, however small. The act of giving is more important than the amount given, and small amounts can really add up over time! Getting in the habit of giving regular, small donations every month is a great place to start – especially on a tight budget.
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2. Build donations into your monthly budget
The best way to be intentional about giving is to make donations a part of your monthly budget. If your budget is already stretched thin, find one area, such as clothes or miscellaneous (like your morning coffee run), where you can sacrifice a bit and then put it towards your donation bucket. There are awesome apps and websites like Mint.com that help you set up a monthly budget, and they make it easy to budget for generosity and to track your monthly giving.
3. Decide who to give to
When you give financially, you want to be a smart philanthropist by making sure your donation is creating the greatest impact possible.
- First: Support a cause that aligns with your passions, interests and beliefs. Think about what change you want to see in the world, then identify which organizations make that change happen.
- Second: After becoming familiar with an organization, look for evidence that the organization clearly articulates the problem it is seeking to address, is an expert regarding the problem, and is invested in and knowledgeable about the community and population they are serving.
- Third: Ensure the sustainability of the organization or projects you are donating to. Some healthy signs that an organization is sustainable include: The leadership is shared and doesn’t rely on one individual. The staff and volunteers are committed and passionate. It has an established history and credible track-record of resiliency and innovation. If the non-profit is just starting out it, it has a strategic and thorough plan for how to launch and be successful. It has proven to operate in a cost-effective way (this can be shown in an organization’s annual report.)
- Fourth: Ensure the transparency and accountability of the organization. Websites like Charity Navigator and Guidestar review non-profits and they can be a good source for determining the integrity of an organization.
4. Tie giving to a special event
You may not a have a large surplus of money to give away, but you can utilize events like your birthday or Christmas to generate donations. This year, tell your friends and family to donate in your honor instead of giving you a gift. Non-profits like One Day’s Wages even have birthday fundraising pages.
5. Donate instead of giving a gift
Instead of buying people something they will never use, give a meaningful and lasting gift. With many non-profits offering gift catalogs where you can buy medicine, soccer balls, mango trees, goats, and more for communities around the world, giving a donation in lieu of a gift has never been easier or more fun. For example, if your friend is a teacher, donate books in her honor to a school in South America. If your brother loves animals, donate chickens to a family in Africa.
6. Give your time
Time is just as valuable as financial donations, and while writing a check is important, it will not impact you as much as volunteering will. Volunteering is especially a great option for those on a tight budget. An easy way to get plugged in is by checking out Volunteer Match, a resource that connects volunteers to opportunities in their area.