How to Make the Most of Your Charitable Giving

Make your giving delightful and personal—and demand more from your giving. After all, it is an investment.

With the holiday season drawing near, our attention and energy is increasingly directed towards the act of giving: giving to loved ones, giving to acquaintances, and giving to causes that need our support. Particularly the latter presents a range of “giving opportunities,” some of which we seek out, some of which seek us out, and all of which require a shrewd approach to navigating the diverse charitable giving landscape.

It seems as if we are presented with opportunities to donate everywhere we go: in our homes and in our work, in the streets and outside local grocery stores. This seasonal spike in the supply of giving options is at once exciting and overwhelming: There are local charities and large nonprofits, fundraisers and resource drives, our children’s schools, and our family member’s organizations. But, how do we choose which ones to support?

As the Co-Founder of Bright Funds, an online platform for donors to contribute to cause-focused mutual funds of nonprofits, charitable giving is something I think a lot about—why we give, what we give, and how we can make giving better. As we enter into the holiday giving season, here are three simple guidelines to help you with your charitable giving choices:

Make your giving delightful. Donating should not be a reluctant handover of funds or powered by guilt. It should be an enjoyable experience, something you seek out and feel good about. You should always feel richer after you give.

Make your giving personal. At Bright Funds, we think of giving as a reflection of who we are, a reflection of what we care most deeply about. Donate not because of obligations, but because you want to see change and sustainable impact. Give because you are invested and because you are genuinely interested in making a difference. Personally, I enjoy the challenge of mountaineering and will rarely pass up an opportunity to get into the backcountry. I’ve developed a deep respect for nature’s ruggedness and beauty, and as a result I choose to focus part of my giving on the environment. My contributions through the Bright Funds' Environment Fund are one way to connect with something I love and care about.

Demand more from your giving: it’s an investment. Don’t think of giving as money leaving your bank account with an ambiguously altruistic purpose. Think of your giving as an investment—a targeted contribution to a social good. Insist that your donor dollars are well spent, have the potential for maximum impact, and track the projects you help to fund. Demand the same from your charitable giving that you do from all other aspects of your personal finances.

When we give, we’re investing in the world as we would want it to be. This holiday season, you’ll both seek out and be presented with many opportunities to have an impact. I hope these steps will serve as a guide as you decide for yourself how you’ll invest in a better world.

Photo via Flickr (cc) user chedder.