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Plan to give

The holidays are over and with them go the food drives, toy drives and the Salvation Army street Santas. Still, the spirit of giving doesn't have to disappear with the season. There are ways to stay motivated and make giving easier throughout the year.

Automatic for the people
"Early January is always a great time to be thinking about this in terms of planning your year out," says Jocelyne Daw, founder and CEO of JS Daw & Associates, a Calgary-based consulting firm that helps non-profits with branding and cause marketing. "The best way to do this is to really decide which charities you want to support and then make a small monthly contribution that comes automatically from your bank account or off your credit card."

It's her favourite approach because people aren't struggling to afford larger donations to many charities at the end of the year, which may make them hesitate to give at all. Plus charities welcome the consistent revenue from a monthly stipend and many help facilitate such gifts very easily.

"The consistent giving is great," says Daw. "It's also a great opportunity to say to the charity, 'Please don't phone me or send me direct mail. I'm going to do this and this is the way I want to contribute.' Not only does this simplify your life, but it saves the charity money."

Donate time
Besides money, all charities need volunteers.

"They're looking for sophisticated talent," says Daw. "These are lawyers, accountants, or people that can provide strategic planning advice, and that kind of higher level volunteering, are all things charities need, so those are also options for giving back."

Volunteering also puts a face to an organization and keeps you motivated to keep giving after the hype of the holidays dies down.

"It gives you a chance to get to know the charity a little better and help you decide whether that's one you will continue giving your support to," says Daw.

Keep the giving growing
If you'd like to take your charitable contributions to the next level, you can do so by setting up your own mini foundation.

"All banks now are well-versed in charitable giving, so they can help you put money aside on a monthly-basis or you can take a big chunk of money from a bonus -- this is the time of year people have just received those -- and you can set up a foundation," says Daw, adding you can also work with a community foundation, which pools donations and invites charities to apply for funding.

Many employers also have incentive programs whereby they will match any charitable donation made by an employee to any non-profit organization that doesn't violate company policies.

Planning your giving strategy is an important way to help charities do good work. "In the non-profit sector, the need is so great, but often very few have that ongoing stable funding," says Daw. "Ongoing fundraising is key to keep these organizations contributing at the level Canadians want."

Aaron Broverman is a writer in Toronto.

-- Posted January 14, 2013
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