Do you have a plan for charitable giving?

by Suba

Recently the flood of junk mail I receive has seen a spike due to solicitation for charitable donations. I think I now have a couple of mails from every single church in my area. And then the local food bank, Salvation Army, veteran’s associations, children’s charities and the like.  I receive at least 5 mails from charities everyday, like I’m the biggest philanthropist in the area. I resent it.

There I said it.

Now, I am not against charitable giving. I am a big proponent of giving as much as possible, but that doesn’t change the fact that I really hate receiving these mails.

  1. I feel my trust has been violated. These charities got my mailing address from some other charity that I donated to. I have been trying to get to the root of it and removing my name. I think I have succeeded in doing that. Almost. But now I am getting mails without a name, these are sent to everyone I guess.
  2. I feel manipulated. I really don’t want to see the pictures they send everyday. It is almost like they want to guilt me into giving.
  3. I feel bad that I cannot help everyone. Well, guilt works, what can I say.
  4. I feel that they are wasting money that could go to a good cause. These mails don’t even come into our house, I discard them near the mailbox before I bring the rest. That is waste of paper, waste of printing and waste of stamps!

With that said, I understand my venting is not going to change the fact that for the next 5 weeks I am going to be receiving tons of requests via every possible medium – either through mail or via social media or direct requests outside the mall.

To get me through the holiday season without going broke or guilty, every year my husband and I sit and make a charitable plan. We decide which charities will get our money that year and we stick with it.

a cute surprise at the Salvation Army kettle ...

How to figure out a plan for charitable giving?

  • What’s your budget? This is extremely important. We have a separate targeted saving account and set aside a certain amount every month. This way we won’t look at a big bill that we couldn’t pay come January.
  • What really matters to you? What do you value? Do you love art or animals? Do you feel a connection to a certain cause? Have you lost a loved one to a terminal illness? This would be a good time to sit and think about what is important to you.
  • What kind of allocation do you prefer? This might be easy for a lot of people but for  a husband and wife who have different values or if you have a lot of causes in your list it is necessary. Who gets what share? I prefer to give more to 2-3 organizations, but some people might want spread the wealth to support several organizations.
  • Pick your charities wisely. There must be thousands of charities for every single cause. How do you know whether the particular charity is putting your money to a good use? There are some watchdog organizations that do a good job analyzing charities. CharityNavigator, Guidestar and BBB giving alliance are 3 places that are very useful to start that research. Make sure they are legitimate nonprofit organizations. There are some organizations that do good work but are not classified as nonprofits due to their desire to avoid the paperwork and reduce costs. Unless you know these organizations personally and can verify their work, it is probably not worth it. Any reputable organization should be able to
    1. Define their mission clearly and be willing to discuss their work & finances.
    2. Describe their achievements.
    3. Respect your privacy. They should have a privacy policy and a data usage policy in place.
  • Trust your instincts. If you still have doubts about a charity, don’t contribute to it. Instead find an organization that you are comfortable with that caters to the same cause.

Finally I want to emphasize on micro-giving. I have been increasingly giving to them, esp. to DonorsChoose (our California schools could use some help). I like it because I can personally ask questions and see the results of what was done with my money.

Whether you are planning to give time, money or your thoughts, how are you handling your giving this holiday season?


Photocredit : Vicki’s Nature

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Money Beagle November 16, 2011 at 6:21 am

We have a list of charities that we give to regularly. We’ll look at the list and modify it every year based on what we have to give, where we want to put our priorities, and the like. We definitely use Charity Navigator, there’s no question there.

We also tend to do the majority of our one-time donations at the end of the year, simply because we save a little throughout the year that allows us to do so.

Jeff @ Sustainable life blog November 16, 2011 at 8:27 am

When I give, I try to pick a charity that I know will make a difference locally. No Offense to the large national charities, but they really turn me off. I feel like they spend a lot of money on marketing and trying to get more money than they spend actually helping people.

mary w November 16, 2011 at 10:29 am

When I worked I donatedto charity through payroll deduction. Picked a half dozen charities each year and sometimes different ones each year. That way I was able to be anonymous to the charities and it kept me off mailing lists.

Now that I’m retired I use a charitable gift strategy through Fidelity. I donate appreciated stock (w/o needing to pay capital gains) to the charitable fund and then “recommend” donations to charities of my choosing. I chose not to give the charities my address again cutting down on junk mail. Obviously not a solution for everyone but it works for me.

shanendoah@The Dog Ate My Wallet November 16, 2011 at 11:24 am

We generally have one shopping day a year (CostCo and the grocery store) where we buy double of everything non-perishable, as well as some things we wouldn’t ordinarily buy (canned vegetables) to give to a food bank.
In addition, we give $1 every time we shop at PetsMart.
Because we haven’t had much extra these last few years, I also try to give some of my time. is micro-volunteering, and it allows me to volunteer from the comfort of home and for short amounts of time. I’ve found it to be my current favorite way to give back.

krantcents November 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Every year, we do the same thing! We donate clothes and some cash/checks. 2012 is the year, I start volunteering. I am looking forward to it.

First Gen American November 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I can usually tell when a charity has sold my name because they sell it almost instantly…there are some charities that I refuse to give to, even though it’s a cause I care about due to their unethical practices and pushy tactics.

Now, when I give I ALWAYS state that I don’t want to be added to any mailing lists for that charity and to please please please not sell my name. Unfortunately for a lot of charities, the number of people I give to I can now count on one hand.

I was also told that if you make a nominal donation (like $10 or $20) that you’re more likely to be sold then if you give a larger amount. Charities like to protect their big donors, so you’re better off contributing more money to fewer organizations.

I feel your pain, I’ve been through it myself and I still get added to lists despite my efforts.

Zero Passive Income November 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm

What a great post. My wife and I budget 10% of net income monthly. I think that giving shouldn’t just be for the holidays =)

Dr. Dean November 17, 2011 at 1:31 am

Suba, how timely. We have been receiving the yearly mail onslaught at our house. You had good suggestions about how to handle charitable giving. We do something similar, but you had some helpful suggestions, Thanks for the ideas.

20's Finances November 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I agree – it seems once they find “givers,” they need to ask for more moeny… and there seems to be some agreement between other charities to share all of their contacts. It gets a little annoying sometimes.

But, with that said, my wife and I are talking about how we should be giving more (since she just got a raise and actually have money to give)

Doctor Stock November 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Great ideas… choosing a charity is an important task. It’s not as easy as believing in the cause. It also requires research to know where those donations are going!

Financial Samurai November 17, 2011 at 10:46 pm

How did you get on these lists in the first place? Was it b/c you donated once, and they spread the address and keep sending?

101 Centavos November 19, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I wish these charities would spend a little less money on direct mailings, and a little more on charity.

Barb Friedberg November 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I contribute quarterly (and automatically) to a preselected and evaluated list of charities through Charity It takes the emotion out of saying “no” to all the mail solicitations. If I want to give to one or two, I can, but no pressure.

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