Is 2009 Your Year To Live Givingly?

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Flickr Photo by Joe Lanman

Last week, I wrote a post asking "How Can We Make Charitable Giving A Year-Round Habit?"  I'm not the only blogger to wonder after the holiday season of giving, what can we do on a regular basis to give back as One Ping Only describes in this post.   So, I went through the calendar identifying holidays and seasons when you might give to a particular charity. 

Stacey Monk who runs a nonprofit called EpicChange, points out that there are many benefits to the charities of regular contributions, even small amounts. "It's true too that many charities would benefit from a sustained, predictable source of income, so making a regular contribution of even $1 a day or even $5 a month makes a huge difference.  It's difficult for nonprofits (or any business, for that matter) to plan when fundraising income is so variable, especially in tough economic times.  To make a sustained commitment throughout the year, no matter what size, is a great gift for any cause you might support."

Giving money (and your time) is a great way to express your personal gratitude. but there may be some selfish reasons for giving.    And, according to this article at SF Gate, charitable giving offers the donor significant and positive health and cognitive benefits.   There's an added benefit, people who donate generate more dopamine, the "happy" neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, craving, and reward.  Hmm ... maybe that's why some of us become "giving junkies" in the best sense of the word.

Here's a summary of advice from commenters on last week's post.

1.   Mark the Date with a Fundraising Campaign

Have a birthday coming up?  A special anniversary or milestone to celebrate?  Why not use the occassion to raise money for a charity that has meaning for you.  I'm turning 52 in a week (hint, hint), so when I received an email from Causes, a fundraising application on Facebook, inviting me to use its new birthday application to raise money for a charity, I couldn't resist.   The application was easy to set up and it provided lots of tips along the way.  So far, I've raised over $1,200 for the Sharing Foundation, a charity that helps Cambodian children.   If Facebook isn't your cup of tea, you can do a fundraising campaign on your blog to celebrate your birthday. 

But don't stop at birthdays.  Tresha mentioned that for her cousin's upcoming wedding, they happy couple has designated a charity instead of opening up a gift registry.  Everytime my husband and I look at our wedding china (that we haven't used in years), we shrug and say why didn't we do something like that?

Changing the Present, a donation portal, offers a registry service.  You can create a profile and direct charitable gifts to a nonprofit organization for birthdays, weddings, births, and memorials.  You can also make micro loans in honor of your wedding or as a tribute at Kiva.org

2.  Link Your New Year's Resolution to Year-Round Giving Strategy

Beth P, who writes the First Giving Online Fundraising Blog, suggests, "Coordinate a New Year's resolution with monthly donations. For example, if you're trying to kick your caffeine habit or cut it in half, calculate the money you would have spent on the java and donate it to your charity of choice."   Or you can set a specific percent of income goal like Paul Lamb who has set a goal of giving back 10% of his annual income to charity. "My 10% goal is something that I think is doable and relatively easy to measure. How will I measure it? I have put together a simple spreadsheet to complete on a regular basis. The sheet will track actual $ donations, time spent volunteering, and a more generic "nice things" that I do for people on a regular basis."

3.  Make your monthly giving automatic

Many online donation portals, like Network for Good or Razoo have the ability to make recurring donations to an organization of your choice.   If you have one or two charities that you want to focus on, this is a terrific way to incorporate giving into your monthly budget.  And, it's probably a lot easier to give a small amount each month. 

Mrs. W's Kitchen tithes 10% of her income. "Giving is important to me--and a requirement of my faith.  I give 10% of my income--to my church and to different charities through the year, depending on how much $$ I have built up.  I also teach Sunday School, and have been impressed by the kids' willingness to donate time & money.  I suggested the idea of a garden this summer to give the harvest to our local rescue mission--they jumped for joy at the idea!"

4.  Give in Your Own Backyard

As Laura Zimmerman says, "Love your locals."   There may be a few charities right in your own backyard that could use your help.   Giving locally makes you part of the community.   Not sure what charities are in your backyard?  Search by state at giving portals like Razoo or search by city and get reviews and ratings at Great Nonprofits.

What other tips or resources would you share to make charitable giving a year-round habit?  If this your year to live givingly, what charities are you supporting outside the holiday season?  Have you made a new year's resolution to give more to charity?

Beth Kanter, Blogher CE for Nonprofits and Social Change, writes Beth's Blog.

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