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Make a plan for holiday giving

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Monday, November 4, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Just as Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the start of the holiday shopping season, Giving Tuesday signals the beginning of the holiday giving season. This year it's Dec. 3, but don't wait until then to begin planning.

One question to ask before you commit to a plan is whether you'll donate many smaller gifts for the holidays and throughout the next year or choose one or two charities to support with a larger donation. "I'm of the opinion that making fewer, larger gifts is a better strategy," says Eileen Heisman, president and CEO of National Philanthropic Trust.

But recognizing that some donors want the ability to respond throughout the year, in the event of a global tragedy or a request from a friend, for example, Heisman says donors can adopt both strategies. Most donors already have determined the total amount of money they'll give for the coming year, she says, so she suggests putting a smaller amount aside that you can access for special requests or events.

Show a commitment

Heisman believes it's best for you as a donor and for the charity if you reserve most of your charitable pot of money for just one or two causes. "It's hard for charities to raise money, so if you give more money, it signals more commitment," she says. If you change causes every year, it ends up costing the organization a lot, she adds, because it's expensive to find new donors.

When you've signaled that you are committed to one or two organizations, even if the amount you give every year varies, you're making it easier for charities to budget because they know they can count on an annual gift. The longer you stay with them, she adds, the more you communicate that you understand their mission. For the donor, the rewards come from seeing the results of a longer-term commitment.

So how do you narrow down your choice to just one or two causes? "The first attraction is usually emotional," says Heisman, as donors seek out causes that are close to the heart. "Donors stay involved because they see the charity is responding well to a need and doing a good job."

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