Make Charitable Contributions a Habit

Simple steps to make philanthropy a consistent part of your routine.

September 2016

For even the most generous among us, giving may not be a consistent part of life. Charitable gifts tend to spike during the holiday season and then wane once the new year arrives. Some give in response to a tragic event, like a natural disaster or the loss of a loved one, while others give to celebrate, such as supporting an alma mater’s fundraising campaign. While one-time memorial gifts and philanthropic donations make a meaningful impact, consistent habitual giving, even in smaller doses, may have a more lasting effect, both on the giver and the charitable recipient. Recurring donations mean organizations can rely on a regular stream of funding for their daily operations. And for donors, smaller, regular contributions keep the checkbook balanced, while a lump sum expense can be harder to manage.

Here are some easy tips for making giving a habit.

  • Fit charitable contributions into your budget. Factor in a set amount each month, and treat it like a regular expense, like paying the electricity or phone bill. You can even set up an automatic deduction from your checking account to a specific charity.
  • Choose a high-performing charity that is meaningful to you. In the past 12 months, the average person may have donated small sums to a dozen different organizations—a check to a local arts center, an entry fee for a 5K race honoring veterans, an online donation to support the cause of a friend or relative. These small, one-time gifts don’t need to stop. But becoming invested and involved in a specific charity can be a special experience. Charities may send newsletters or small gifts of appreciation to regular donors. If your chosen organization is local, you can visit in person, attend events or volunteer on weekends. Both the donor and the recipient can benefit from the relationship.
  • Introduce charitable giving into your business or organization. If you run your own company, make charitable giving a priority. A business can use its resources to promote giving by including fundraising targets in performance goals and working with partner donors. Get your staff on board, too, by choosing a charity that relates to your work and encouraging them to learn about the recipient through regular communication or volunteerism. Your accountant and attorney can help you budget regular giving and calculate tax benefits.
  • Give your children a monthly charity allowance. It doesn’t have to be a large amount, as it’s more about teaching them about the value and impact of regular giving. Let your kids choose how they want to donate the money, but help them evaluate charities and navigate their websites. Encourage older kids to contribute some of their own earnings, too. Older and younger kids alike may enjoy donating to different charities each month, perhaps choosing one based on a new hobby, a school subject or an upcoming holiday.