Ways to Give During the Holidays

by David Sung

During the holidays, the spirit of giving is in the air. From bell ringers in parking lots to toy drives at the mall, opportunities to share good fortune abound. So, how do you go about choosing how and where to donate? And how can you spread your generosity when your own budget is running low?

If you can, the best option is to find a good charity or non-profit organization that is meaningful to you, and donate cash to them. On average, 41% of annual contributions are received in the last few weeks of the year.  These organizations rely on year-end gift giving to meet their yearly budgets and maintain operations. You can use a service such as Charity Navigator to make sure they are classified as 501c3. If so, your donation can be deducted from your annual income taxes.

If you don’t have extra cash to contribute this season, consider giving the gift of your time. The Salvation Army uses Volunteer Match to recruit volunteers for their annual bell-ringing operation. A recent search under one zip code found 462 volunteer opportunities seeking participants. Or you could ask around locally. If you see a toy drive, ask if they need extra help. Soup kitchens and food pantries always need extra hands this time of year.

If you want to have more of an impact, you could take it upon yourself to organize a toy or food drive this season. If you are already having a Christmas party, include a request in your invitations for guests to bring canned food to donate to a local food pantry. If you belong to a business networking group or other club, add a charity component to your December event like this group’s Operation Social Santa .

You already plan to buy gifts for your loved ones this season, so why not buy presents that give back? Toms is a great example of this. With their One for One policy, for every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. The Charitable Gift Giving Blog is a resource for finding similar gifts such as these bracelets that benefit orphanages around the world. You may also consider GiveCards, which are prepaid debit cards where the recipient can purchase whatever they want, and a portion is donated to the charity of their choice.

If you keep your eyes and ears open this season, there are opportunities for small giving all around. For instance, does your neighborhood crossing guard need new gloves? How about glue sticks or other school supplies for your child’s classroom? Do you have a neighbor who is going through a hard time? An anonymous gift of $20 in their mailbox may be an easy way to make their season bright. Don’t let a small budget stop you from sharing the spirit of the holiday season.

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