Your guide to giving throughout the entire year.

Written by Julie Murray of Moonridge Group

17902957_mlThe holiday season often prompts many of us to take a moral inventory of our lives. We tend to do this during the holidays simply because the occasion marks the passing of a calendar year giving us pause to do some quiet reflection about who and what matters most. On the flipside, the holidays can add to our already busy schedules by dealing with the increased demand for our time. Managing this request can prove to be difficult, however, finding ways to connect with family and friends through charitable giving will not only strengthen bonds but will provide a meaningful and rewarding way to celebrate the real meaning of the holiday season. Finding ways to give to others less fortunate is a highly satisfying way to express appreciation for the blessings in your life. There are many ways to give that include volunteering your time, sharing your expertise, talent, and skill, donating goods and services and of course charitable contributions. Our digital world makes giving quite easy, however, there are some things to consider before committing your support.

1. Give to Organizations that Matter to You
This may sound obvious, but taking the time to reaffirm what issues or causes align most with your values can make the process of giving more seamless. When selecting a charity make time to do some basic research before identifying which non-profit to donate your time or funds. Online sites such as Charity Navigator, United Way, or allow you to review the reputation and fiscal soundness of an organization. A telling indicator of whether a non-profit organization is managed well is to find out who serves on their board of directors. A skilled board is a key factor that a non-profit is led with fidelity and integrity, one that will use your funds wisely. In addition, take a look at the charity’s financials. This information should be readily available in the form of an annual report on their website that will give you details about how your donation will be used. Understanding the overall impact an organization has had in the past and how it is being led today will help guide your selection. The more proactive you are in searching for a charity that you are passionate about, the more you can be assured that your donation will be maximized.

2. View your Charitable Donation as an Investment
Many of us give to a charity on a whim only to never be thought of again. Once you select a charity that matters to you, consider developing a partnership with them by determining the various ways you can make an impact throughout the year. Non-profits most certainly need generous donors, but they also need partners who believe in their mission and values who can support their efforts through the gift of time, expertise, and services. This will ensure that your return on investment has long-lasting impact beyond the holiday giving season.

3. The “T” in Charity
Use your network of family, friends, co-workers, and social media contacts – your “Team” to spread the word about the good work being done by your charity of choice. Share information about your experience via social media and conversation with your Team. Your goodwill will inspire others to support your charitable organization optimizing the impact you and your Team can make.

4. Strength in Numbers
In addition to spreading the word, your giving experience will be heightened if you join with family, friends, and co-workers. The shared experience – especially during the holiday season will allow you to create long-lasting memories while working together to support others in need.

5. The Oxytocin Effect
Not only will the lives of the people supported by the charity be improved, but you will also feel uplifted by the experience of your gift of time or money. Many donors reported that they experienced a positive feeling throughout the process of giving, and relate it to the production of oxytocin in our bodies. Author Martin P. Seligman, in his book Flourishing cited “We scientists have found that doing a kindness produces momentary increases of well-being of any exercise we have tested.”

The more proactive you are in searching for a charity that you are passionate about, the more you can be assured that your donation will be maximized.

63311276_mlUltimately, the charity you select to receive your contribution is a very personal choice. Considering the points made in this article will hopefully assist you in choosing an organization that most speaks to you and one that will maximize your contribution to the greatest good. The holiday season is an excellent opportunity to give to your community, one that you will find provides you with a gift that truly keeps on giving – the gift of touching the life of another without the formality of being introduced.