5 Steps to Make Year-End Giving More Joyful - Vario Philanthropy
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5 Steps to Make Year-End Giving More Joyful

The holidays are upon us. Our mailboxes are full of updates from friends and loved ones… as well as year-end requests from charities. If you’re like many, you probably put them to the side, intending to give thoughtful consideration to each request. But December takes over, the tyranny of the urgent rules again, and you end up making a slough of reactive gifts, writing a big check to your church, or parking it all in a donor advised fund. (Did you know that 30% of charitable giving happens in December? And 10% comes through in the last 48 hours of the year?!) Though happy to give to good causes, you leave the experience a little unfulfilled.

Sound familiar? Is this bad? Simply, no. But what if it could be better?

What if it could be different this year? What if you could experience more fulfillment and joy from your giving? We’ve seen time and again that when giving is done well, it changes both us and our world for the better.

Here are 5 simple questions that can lead to a season of giving that’s more impactful and fulfilling.

1. How much can you give?

Think about how much you want to give this holiday season. Talk to your tax or wealth advisor, and then your spouse/partner. Consider creating a budget for your kids or grandkids to give to their favorite causes. You may also want to think about gifting stocks/bonds, property, or other assets. Don’t forget to see if your employer offers a match!

Beyond the dollars, how can you also give the gift of your time? Set aside time to volunteer – alone, or with family and friends. Read up on simple ideas for giving back around the holidays.

Once you’ve got your number, pause and think for just a moment – what if you knew those dollars could make a difference? What if, like a charitable ROI, you could invest in the change that mattered to you? It’s possible – it just takes some thought and commitment. Read on.

2. What do you most profoundly care about changing?

Stop right now and think about what you’re most passionate about. Answer these questions…

  • What breaks your heart?
  • What do you wish were different in your community/world?
  • What injustices most anger you or causes fill you with hope?
  • What opportunities or experiences have shaped you, that you’d like to make accessible to others?
  • What root causes or societal issues do you find yourself constantly wishing you could address?
  • What values and traditions do you hope to pass on to future generations?

Using your answers to these questions, write down 2–3 issues you want to impact with your time, talent, and means. Consider devoting a date night with your spouse or a family dinner to answering these questions and identifying the common ground.

Having an idea of what you most want to change can shift your giving approach to a greater degree of proactivity and help you overcome the reactive hustle. Having a more meaningful “yes” makes the “nos” more meaningful too.

3. What best aligns with my vision for change?

When the holiday request letters come in, prioritize those organizations that best align with your passions, interests and desired legacy.

Next, reflect back on the organizations you’ve been exposed to over the last year. Consider adding a few organizations to the mix who didn’t manage to send you a mailing. Ask a few people you think are “in the charitable know” to recommend some of their favorites. (Or – feel free to call us! We try to keep a pulse on some of the neatest work happening across different areas and are always happy to share ideas).

4. What do I need to know to give confidently?

Do some research on the groups that interest you, especially if they’re unfamiliar to you. Visit their website. Look for how they define success and how they share about the impact of their work. Listen for leadership, vision, and change (not just good ideas). If you have time, consider going on a site visit to learn more or call to ask what upcoming projects they’re looking to fund. Sometimes focusing your giving to fewer organizations, or investing in a larger specific project can make a more tangible impact.

If you’re a numbers person or looking for an outside view, visit GuideStar.org or CharityNavigator.org to get a sense of their financial health.

5. What should you celebrate?

Once your gifts have been made, celebrate! Know that your gifts will make a difference to the people, communities, and causes you care most deeply about. Over dinner with your spouse/partner, family, or friends, reflect on your favorite gift and why. What about that charity stands out to you? Why did you want to support them? What is your hope/prayer for that charity and those they serve? Explore how you could engage more deeply with that organization and volunteer or give more in the year ahead.

When we give well, it changes us as it changes the causes that matter to us. We find that we’ve become better people as we’ve made the world a better place.