How to donate in December – and make it count

Austin online donation

More donations happen in December than in any other month of the year. By a long shot.

That’s why fundraising experts believe the current tax bill will have a negative effect on nonprofits. According the Network for Good’s most recent Online Giving Index, 30 percent of all online donations made in 2015 happened in the last month of the year, and 20 percent of those donations happened on the last day of the year.

That tells us that lots of people donate because they anticipate itemizing their tax return and getting the tax deduction for their donation. So when Congress passes a new tax code that raises the standard deduction, it will eliminate some of the motivation for people to give. In fact, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy estimates passage of the tax bill would reduce charitable giving by $13.1 billion.

But you’re not going to be one of those people. You give because you believe investing in nonprofits can alleviate the social problems you care about the most, right? Not some silly tax deduction!

That being said, there are some steps you can take to assure that your December donation will have the most impact.

1. Research the nonprofit before you make your donation. This is a pretty simple first step because if you’ve donated to them before, volunteered for them, or otherwise know their work, you can feel good about giving to them. You can always check out their 990 or look them up on Charity Navigator, but a better way to find out if they’re being vetted is to look for a list of their funders  – foundations and corporations who have given them grants or donations. Large organizations often have rigorous application processes that screen nonprofits before giving them a grant. So if you see on their website that they’ve been funded by a foundation, you can believe the organization is good enough for your donation.

2. Consider pledging a monthly gift. The holidays can be an expensive time with travel and gift buying, so you might not be able to make as large a gift as you like. That’s fine! Make a small gift this month, but sign up to make that a recurring gift every month. Most nonprofits offer this service as a way to make it easier for donors to “make payments” on a larger gift. If you can afford $20 during the holidays, you can probably afford $20 every month – and not even think about it. In the end, you’re one-time online process can result in a gift 12 times bigger! And that kind of sustaining funding can help a nonprofit plan for the future.

3. Take advantage of an employer match. Many large Austin-area employers offer to match your donation dollar-for-dollar, yet this is the most untapped source for doubling your impact. Some employers ask you to apply for the match after you make the donation, others ask you to donate through their system. Please find out if your employer matches and then take advantage of it. Remember, there’s often a deadline, so look into it now to make sure you can meet it.

4. Share how you gave. Now is not the time to be humble. When you post to social media that you’ve made a donation, it inspires and reminds others to do the same. To create a culture of giving, there need to be people who show their leadership, so don’t be shy: Tell everyone which cause you gave to and why. It’s not about how much you gave, it’s about setting an example. Use those share buttons after you make the donation!

5. Don’t wait until December 31. Yes, millions of people wait until the very last day of the year to make their donation. And that’s fine. There are nonprofit staff who sit in the office ready to accept it, tearing through envelopes until the last minute of the day to enter your donation into the system. Trust me, they know you. But… if you’re thinking about it now, go ahead and log on to your favorite charity’s website and send in that gift. You’ll have more time to pledge, more time to take advantage of your employer’s match, and more time to share and inspire others to give. Now’s the time to become a more thoughtful philanthropists. And you’ll start the new year off feeling great about yourself. And you should!

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