Friday, December 12, 2008

Don't Let Your Holiday Donations Be Like Buying Gum in the Checkout Line

Do you know why they put gum, keychains and other small, low-cost items at the checkout counter? So that you'll throw them in your cart at the last minute as an impulse buy. Even though you didn't go into the store planning on buying a 3-pack of ChapStick, it seems like a good idea in the moment, so you do.

Holiday giving can be like that. You receive dozens of letters and emails asking you to support all kinds of causes, and the folks sending out the letters and email are hoping that when you open their message, even though you weren't planning on it, something will tug at your heartstrings in that moment, and you will write a check, or click a PayPal button.

Just like you should bring a list to the grocery store to avoid overspending, you should go into the holiday season, and the New Year, with a giving plan so that at the year's end you'll feel satisfied with your philanthropic "purchases."

In her article, Straight from the Heart: A Plan to Organize Your Giving in Crosswalk, Beth Huber offers six steps for creating a giving plan:

1. Establish your giving goal.
2. Select the recipients of your giving.
3. Create a giving plan chart.
4. Create a file for your giving records.
5. Review your giving plan on a monthly basis.
6. Finalize your giving plan in December and revise it for the New Year.

Tired But Happy posted Our Giving Plan on their blog a couple years ago. To create their plan, they decided how much they would give to each cause by how important it is to them. For example, they planned on giving $200 out of their annual budget to an organization, or organizations that work on women's health, and violence against women issues, and $50 to an organization, or organizations that work on economic justice and labor issues. You can read more about how they came up with their plan in the post, Tithing: Creating a Giving Plan.

In her article, Create a Giving Plan in the North County Times, Candace Bahr and her husband use 4 criteria to create a giving plan every six-months:

1. Find your passion.
2. Focus your gifts, rather than scattering them.
3. Share your time and skills.
4. Give money to causes you are passionate about.

Finally, in their post, Establish a Giving Plan, Free Money Finance outlines how they create their annual giving plan:

1. They divide their giving into three categories: tithe (10% of their gross income), offerings (donations that go beyond their tithe), and gifts that are not tax deductible.
2. The tithe goes to their church each week.
3. Each month, they decide which organization(s) to give their offering. They determine the offering amount by taking their annual budget and dividing it by 12.
4. The non-tax deductible donations happen at random.
5. They do Quicken reports on occasion to make sure they are on track with their giving.

I haven't read it, but Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan by Tracy Gary and Melissa Kohner looks like it might be a good resource to help you create your giving plan too.

This post was written in response to Nathaniel Whittemore's post, The One Thing You Need to Know Before You Donate to Charity this Holiday Season on Check it out for more holiday giving tips from Nathaniel, and other bloggers.

Cross-posted from BlogHer
Flick photo credit: $5700 by Andrew Magill


  1. This is great, Britt!

    Financial planners across America should integrate this material into their counseling, and give you credit for it. :)

  2. Anonymous4:41 PM

    Britt, this an absolutely wonderful way to approach the question. I love the gum-in-the-checkout-line-analogy. Thanks for writing!

  3. Anonymous7:02 PM

    I have another tip. Stay away from the Internet while drinking! I have given a few of those impulse donations after a couple of glasses of wine. I don't regret the donations (they were a better use of my money than the diet plan I bought from an Infomercial one night in a similar state -- thankfully returnable) but I do wish I had done a little better planning.

  4. I'm glad you enjoyed it Samuel. I just rounded up everyone else's good advice.

    Nathaniel - Thanks for the fun prompt.

    Fake Plastic Fish - Do I need to get you a "Don't Drink and Donate" laptop sticker :) ?


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