Be The Change You Want To See
By Megan Stiles, CVA®, AFC®
We like to think that our sense of well-being, political freedom, and personal accomplishments result from our efforts. However, we can understand that none of these realities are possible without certain material conditions. These necessities include nutrition, clean water, shelter, healthcare, access to education, and political stability. Giving financially to organizations that support these essentials lets us work toward building a better world—one that’s safer, healthier, more stable, and happier for everyone.
By understanding our capacity to support a better world, we can develop a plan to encourage it. Once we’ve met our personal needs and contributed to our financial goals, we can contribute to the organizations that mirror our values.
Your Charity’s Report Card
There are various ways to support charitable organizations. You can give your money, attention, time, stuff, or partnership. Regardless of how you’ve decided to contribute, your journey starts with research. Two of the most common unbiased, third-party vetting organizations are Charity Navigator and GuideStar. These platforms provide a report card, per se, using data sourced from public documents and submitted by the organization. They confirm that your gift turns into the actions stated by charities’ missions. Once you’ve vetted your chosen charitable organization(s), the next step is to set a giving limit.
Build a Safety Net: One-time or recurring gifts
After you fund your bills, financial goals, and savings, the money leftover may put you in the position to consider charitable giving. Whether a one-time gift or increments throughout the year, make it a line item in your budget to ensure your heart doesn’t outweigh your wallet. Monthly giving lets you predict the amount each month or break up a more significant gift into affordable pieces. When calculating a one-time gift, be sure to account for upcoming irregular expenses (vacation, oil change, subscriptions) you will need to meet.
If you’re new to charitable giving and uncertain how it will fit your budget, try giving with a safety net. Open a separate savings account to deposit your desired one-time or monthly contribution. Unforeseen financial emergencies can be absorbed by utilizing the funds in the charitable safety net account, keeping you on track financially and eliminating giver’s remorse. When you reach the end of the year, donate the sum of the account to charity.
When Your Wallet is Empty: Non-financial gifts
If you don’t have the cash to contribute, you can still give your things, attention, and time. One of the most common forms of non-financial giving is in-kind donations. Some charities can repurpose gently used items to meet their mission, either by reselling or giving to the communities they serve. Supporting organizations can also be as simple as following them on social media, interacting with their posts, and sharing that information within your network. Bringing attention to the organization’s mission, vision, and actions will help others discover it. Time and talent can be just as valuable as money. Volunteering for a special event or ongoing opportunity is another powerful way to give if you have extra time.
The Power of Partnerships: Putting businesses to work
Partnerships are easy ways to increase your giving capacity. Does your employer have a charitable contribution matching program? You can quickly double your cash gift by enrolling. Double the Donation estimates $4-$7 billion in matching gift funds go unclaimed each year. You could also research ESG funds for your investment accounts. ESG investing focuses on environmental sustainability, social consciousness, and corporate governance. The idea is to align your investments with companies that support initiatives important to you.
When making purchases, you can also choose partnering businesses that will contribute to organizations or causes. AmazonSmile donates 0.5% of your eligible purchase total to the nonprofit of your choice without an extra cost; you have control over the choice of charity that receives the donation. (3rd Decade is an approved charity for AmazonSmile, so you can choose to have 3rd Decade benefit when you purchase items off Amazon! Simply set 3rd Decade as your preferred charity when you shop at AmazonSmile.)
You can also find products that return a portion of the purchase price to charities. With this, you won’t control which charity receives the funds, and it becomes difficult to know how much is given. Cause-marketing donations can give you a jumpstart to your charitable giving routine, but for the most satisfaction, you will ultimately want to budget a direct gift as your capacity grows.
Charitable Contributions: When Giving Gives Back
In March 2020, the CARES Act passed, creating a new rule allowing taxpayers who take the standard deduction to now deduct charitable donations. There is a $300 limit for individuals and a $600 limit for married couples. There is no income limit, and anyone who takes the standard deduction can use this deduction. To apply for the deduction, you’ll need to acquire a receipt for your cash donation to a IRS tax-exempt organization. In-kind contributions do not count, nor do personal gifts to crowdfunding sites (GoFundMe, YouCaring).
There are many ways to make a difference in the world. The right way to do it is the way that works for you. Your mission: determine your capacity and be the ripple that ultimately creates a wave of change.