We’ve all heard the maxim “give ‘til it hurts.” But you can still be generous without crying when it comes time to pay your bills.
Between never-ending GoFundMe campaigns and our bursting email boxes, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with a desire to help. It can be hard to know which causes to support and how much to give.
The following tips will help you keep your gifts in line with your budget, ensuring your own financial welfare while you help those in need.
Select your charity wisely
If you’re a sensitive person, you probably find that each new appeal pulls at your heart strings, making you feel morally bound to respond. But if you give money to all of them, you’ll soon have nothing left for yourself.
Pick your favourite cause, or the one that concerns you most, and bypass the rest. If you love animals, for instance, you might choose a charity for pet care or endangered wildlife. It’s tough to narrow it down, but you’ll be a more effective giver if you focus on one single cause at a time.
Don’t feel pressured to join the latest trendy cause. Never mind what your friends on social media are supporting, choose the cause that resonates most with you, not the one that’s gone viral.
Decide how much and how often
Do some rough calculations to work out how much money you can afford to give away. There’s no law about how much a person should donate, it’s all about your comfort level and your budget.
Look at your charitable donations in the context of your entire budget. See how much you can afford to part with so that you’re not giving up funds needed to pay for your necessities like rent, food, and bills.
It’s up to you to decide how often to make your donations – whether annually, monthly or just this once. An overall plan will help you keep track of your gifts and limit them as needed.
Remember, you’re doing good just by donating. Charitable giving isn’t a contest about who can give the most.
Check out your chosen organization
Before parting with your money, check out the organisation to which you’re planning to give. Check out their mission statements and make sure that it truly aligns with your values and vision.
Charities use their donations in different ways, too. Some may invest them in staff salaries or equipment or gala balls while others give directly to the cause.
Browse the website of your preferred fund for more information before handing over any money. Every reputable charity will have a rating on a charity evaluation website, such as CharityNavigator.
Donate time instead of money
Don’t have money to spare? Donating your time is just as valuable as donating money. Charities rely on volunteers to accomplish many of their goals. By offering up your precious hours, you can helping your cause achieve its goals just as effectively as writing a check.
The value of a volunteer hour was estimated to be $24.14 in 2016, according to Independent Sector, an association that monitors the nonprofit sector.
Last year, more than 63 million Americans volunteered about 8 billion hours. That’s roughly $193 billion in donated hours.
Draw a line
You can’t save the world on your own, but you can certainly do your part to make it a better, happier place. When you’ve done your budget and given what you can comfortably spare, stop and be proud of your contribution.
By keeping your gifts in line with your income and overall spending budget, you’ll be able to put enough money by for your own needs and pleasures, and that’s just as important. After all, society thrives on strong, happy people like you.
Read more: How Do Non-Profits Work? A Quick Guide
Lindsay Goldwert is Senior Editor at Stash.