It’s that time of year… peace on earth, goodwill towards your fellow man, and random acts of kindness are encouraged everywhere. It is a time of year where those less fortunate are seeking physical and financial help, and charities are heavily promoting the need for donations. Many Americans are instinctively kind and giving. We help our neighbors, our friends and family, animal rescues, and oftentimes strangers within our communities and abroad. There are many ways to give of yourself during the holidays and indeed throughout the year.
Why give back
There are many benefits of charitable giving. In addition to the obvious – meeting the needs of others – giving of yourself actually can make you happier. In fact, a Harvard Business School study confirmed that “happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).” (Lewis, Michael. “12 Ways to Volunteer Your Time and Give Back to the Community”). From a practical financial perspective, a robust financial plan that includes charitable giving can meet the needs of others and possibly provide you tax benefits for your assets.
How to give back
John Clawson volunteering at the Rubbermaid Products Sale to benefit the Free Dental Clinic in Winchester, VA
Community / personal – It is easy to forget that charitable giving is more than simply handing over a check to a large non-profit. You can volunteer at a church, school, hospital, nursing home, or a food kitchen. On a personal level giving back doesn’t always have to be supporting a major cause, such as curing cancer or providing water for third world nations. Simply helping family members, neighbors, and anyone you encounter with a need can pay dividends in the lives of others.
Donate home goods, clothing, old car, or food to various charitable organizations – If you are moving or simply doing a winter clean out of your home, someone in need could use items that you no longer care to keep. Non-profits such as Salvation army, Goodwill, AMVETS, Habitat for Humanity, and GreenDrops for the most part are looking for anything gently used and in good condition. Their websites list main donation categories of shoes and clothing, electronics, housewares, art, books, and toys. In fact, some companies will even come to your home to pick up larger items -- furniture, mattresses, appliances, books, and even used cars.
Through your business– For the owner of a company, giving back to your community is a great way to help others while also promoting your business. Ways to donate include:
1. offer pro bono services to an event or non-profit organization;
2. join the Board of Directors for a worthy cause;
3. place a donation box at your place of business;
4. sell tickets to a charitable event;
5. donate the use of business property or assets to a charitable organization
Work with a financial planner to incorporate charitable giving as part of a complete plan. Based on your assets, investments, and budget a financial planner can help you determine how to incorporate a charitable giving plan that meets you overall giving goals. Examples of ways to help others through financial planning are:
2. Estate Planning to help you determine who you would like to bequeath some or all of your assets to after your death.
3. Philanthropic Planning to set up a foundation or other long-term charitable organization that may involve multiple members of a family (for example, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).
4. Simply committing to ‘tithing’ 10% of your income throughout the year.
Tips for donating to charitable organizations
- Determine what you are personally passionate about. When you are personally invested or have a passion for a certain cause, we believe you are going to be more apt to be consistent in giving your time or money.
- Instead of the just handing over a check, think of the greater picture. Your gift is going to be an investment into a cause or a purpose.
- Before choosing a charity, research the organization’s accomplishments. Their website should have a clear mission statement and list specific goals. Creditable charities will openly reveal their programs and finances. Check periodically after giving to see if they hit their goals or did what they claimed they would do with your donation.
- Be aware of suspicious looking charities with a vague purpose or mission. They could be a potential scam. Look at the charity’s leadership and website for details. Independent boards and oversight are a good sign, one person operating the charity with a few family members will require further investigation to see if they are legitimate. Avoid charities that won't share information or if they try to pressure you. Most companies are understanding about any hesitation you have and will be willing to send you literature about their work or direct you to their website. If you still have doubts about a charity, do more research or find another nonprofit that does the same kind of work. It’s your money so you should feel comfortable before and after you make any donation.
In conclusion, feelings of good will toward others is especially prevalent during the holidays but make it a point to try and do for others any time of the year. Wherever you are in life, somewhere along the way you probably had help to get where you are today. Giving towards others is essential to leaving a lasting impact on those around you. Whether writing a large check to your favorite charity or simply shoveling your neighbor’s driveway, the old adage is often true – “It is better to give, than to receive.”
Resources for volunteer and charitable opportunities in and around Winchester:
Organizations that pick-up donations:
Organizations that can help you research charities:
*Shenandoah Valley Financial Services is located in the city of Winchester in Frederick County, VA. We serve as financial advisors to clients in the Mid-Atlantic Region primarily in the states of VA, MD, DC, FL, NC, SC, PA, and WV.