Americans are a generous bunch. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, U.S. residents and companies gave $471.44 billion to charity in 2020, a significant increase over 2019.
Of course, Americans don’t give equally. Many of us lack the resources to donate to charity consistently or at all. Many more of us can afford to donate to charity but don’t feel financially comfortable doing so.
And then there are those of us who donate here and there but want to do more. With so many things competing for our limited dollars, it’s hard to contribute a significant amount to a favorite charity.
What If You Could Do More?
You can do more. By making a few simple organizational and financial changes at home, you can unlock financial reserves. You can send those dollars to organizations and causes that need them more than you do. And, best of all, you won’t feel any poorer for it.
Follow these tips to unlock your financial reserves and put yourself in a position to donate more to charity this year — without breaking your budget.
1. Build a List of Go-to Charities
Compiling a list of go-to charities you expect to donate annually is an easy way to reduce the time you invest in managing your philanthropy.
You can spend the time you save researching new charities on more productive activities, like a side hustle or passive income stream. That freed-up time probably won’t produce life-changing income, but every little bit counts. And if you’re so inclined, you can put some or all of that income toward your philanthropy.
Remember, when researching charities, ensure they are a legitimate organization and registered to solicit contributions. Here’s a handy guide that explains how to check.
2. Automate Your Giving
Your time is valuable. Why write checks every year (or quarter, or month) when you can set and forget recurring donations to your preferred charities?
Automating your giving can also address the cash flow issues that affect some donors. By spacing your donations throughout the year rather than rushing to make all your gifts in December, you’ll avoid a cash crunch during what’s usually the costliest time of the year.
3. Replace Discretionary Spending With Charitable Donations
Challenge yourself to replace one discretionary purchase each month with a charitable donation of the same size.
This won’t affect your budget at all. You’ll simply redirect funds you would have spent on something you probably didn’t need to a worthy cause. Chances are, you’ll find this exercise easy. You might even enjoy it. If so, why not replace two discretionary purchases next month?
4. Donate Instead of Giving Gifts
This strategy works best with close friends and relatives who support your efforts to spend less and donate more. Even if it ruins the surprise, it’s best to get the “recipient’s” permission beforehand.
That said, replacing a traditional birthday or holiday gift with an equal-sized donation to the recipient’s charity of choice is a fantastic way to boost charitable giving without affecting your finances. Like replacing a discretionary purchase with a generous donation, it’s a one-for-one swap.
5. Invest in Third-Party Donations
You’ve probably participated in a fundraising or donation drive at some point. If so, you’ve been a third-party donor — someone who, at the drive organizer’s request, donates money, goods, or time to a group or cause.
Can you see yourself on the other side of the transaction? You’re 100% capable of organizing a fundraising event that attracts donations from your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and maybe even random people who hear about your efforts from others.
Your fundraising campaign could take the form of a bake sale, a car wash, a raffle, a fancy dinner, a crowdfunding campaign, requests for matching donations from for-profit companies in your community, or a simple plea on social media. The possibilities are limitless.
6. Donate Your Time or Valuable Pre-Owned Items
Not all donations can be measured in dollars and cents. Not directly, anyway. If you really can’t afford to donate additional cash to your favorite causes, consider donating your time by volunteering or giving items of value gathering dust in your home.
You probably know you can donate your car to charity. You can also donate other valuable items, like furniture and stock shares. Depending on your financial situation and filing status, these types of donations could qualify you for a personal or business tax deduction. However, you’ll want to speak with a tax professional before making any assumptions.
Minor tweaks to your budget and spending priorities can produce significant savings. What could the charities you support do with an extra $50 each month, or an additional $100 or $150 if you’re so fortunate?
Boosting your charitable donations doesn’t have to break your budget. If you hope to do more good in the world this coming year, try out these ideas and see just how far you can stretch it.
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