3 principles for giving beyond Christmas

December 15th, 2014

Seven red kettles ringing. Six email campaigns dinging. Five Gofundme requests!

Over the last two weeks, I've received each type of request for monetary donations listed above and then some. The Salvation Army, Kiva, a Gofundme request for a family in need of shelter, an alumni association raising scholarship money and my own church.

There’s a lot of need in this world and that need isn't something that we, as Christians, can turn a blind eye to. But our bank accounts, even collectively, are limited in how much they can accomplish to relieve the suffering of others. How do we decide practically what we should give to and how much to give?

My husband and I tithe to our local church and we feel like we have that figured out. But when it comes to the offerings side of giving which are, at least for us, in addition to our tithe, it has not always been easy to decide whom to give to and how much. 

I know this is hard to figure out, and I certainly don't have all the answers, but here are three principles I've found helpful for giving during the Advent and Christmas season and beyond:

1. If you aren’t giving, there's no time like the present to start. Build a giving category into your budget and cut out some non-essential spending this month. You might consider cutting back on how much you're spending on Christmas presents and entertaining and give away the difference.

2. Give to organizations that are good stewards. If you aren’t sure, you can ask what percent of donations goes toward operating (and not program) expenses. Generally speaking, the lower the percentage, the better, but this should not be the only indicator of good stewardship that is considered. You also want to consider the results that are achieved with donations. For bigger organizations, I like to use GuideStar to research non-profits that I’m not familiar with.

If you're considering giving to individuals or smaller organizations, be prayerful about it. It's perfectly appropriate to (respectfully) ask for more information about how a donation will be used.

3. Decide now if you want to pick one organization to give your budgeted offering money to this month or if you want to make a lot of smaller donations. We started doing this in the past year and it has made communicating with each other about our giving much easier. If you decide to make several smaller donations, having your budget set in advance will also help you keep your giving aligned with your overall budget and other priorities. Then give smaller amounts as donation requests arise until your budgeted amount runs out.

There are 12 days of Christmas, so don’t stop giving just because the holidays are over. Giving becomes easier when you make it a habit, especially a monthly one. What will be your eight maids-a-milking donation in August?

Lindsey blogs at changetherace.com and is the author of “Mortgage Free in 3.”

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