Charitable giving is one of the greatest pleasures we can experience as we reach financial stability. While many people believe that it isn’t as satisfying as buying a new luxury item, little can compare to changing someone’s life through selfless generosity. When we are younger, we often volunteer to feel this sense of unity (when we don’t have the means to contribute financially). However, as we reach a more secure stage in life, our financial contributions can help us still feel connected to our communities.
Why Should We Give?
Charitable giving isn’t just about making ourselves feel good, however. While there is a unique feeling of joy when you can impact a specific person or group, there is also a sense of satisfaction from being able to make a real difference in a social issue you are passionate about. When we are young, we often feel the deep sense to make the world a better place, but the sheer difficulty of doing so can dull this impulse over time. However, now that you are in a position where all of your needs are met, you can begin to make a positive impact and see the social wealth generated from your long-held beliefs and passions.
What Does the Bible Say About Charitable Giving?
Scripture tells us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). However, this giving has its limits. We can’t give more than is sustainable across time, and we also can’t give to the detriment of our family’s needs. Therefore, many OneAscent clients arrive at the common but painful question, “How much, exactly, should I be giving to charity?”
The tradition of tithing calls for 10% of income to go toward the needy (or often the church, which disperses it to different charitable acts). Tithing was considered a requirement only for Israelites living under the Old Covenant. And, it goes without saying that giving 10% of your livestock and grain to support an ancient agricultural community is much different from modern Americans giving 10% of their income. However, it’s still Scriptural that we give, and God asks us to trust Him on this.
How Much Should We Give?
Most Americans look to their neighbors and friends to understand how much is “normal” to give to charity. Research from Texas A&M indicates that most households give between 1 and 2% of their annual income to charitable causes. The lower percentage feels more attainable for Americans who are also paying taxes, mortgages, college funds, and other expenses of modern-day life, but that is certainly less than the generosity we see in the Bible in Numbers 18: 26 and Matthew 6:21.
Your charitable donations can also be used to benefit you during tax season. While we rarely give for the tax write-offs alone, you should take advantage of this option if you give a considerable amount each year. Cash donation deductibles can be as high as 60% of your AGI, while non-cash donations typically have a limit of 20 to 60% depending on the asset donated.
Where Should We Give?
The next questions most clients ask us include: “What charities should I give to? Should I give to just one I really believe in or spread the wealth to several noble causes? And how do I know that my money is being put to good use?”
Some clients do choose to focus their efforts on one organization for all of their charitable giving. These are often individuals who volunteer or provide services to a specific organization or have long-standing relationships with a certain community cause. Others may be deeply passionate about a particular cause because of how it has affected their livelihood or family.
If this is not you, consider spreading charitable donations across several causes that align with your values. We often recommend doing this monthly or saving up some money to donate around the holidays. This can be a great activity to do as a family — creating a piggy bank for different charities throughout the year can help children feel responsible for the world outside themselves.
Charitable giving doesn’t have to be as dull as writing a check. Volunteering or participating in charitable events can make your annual giving more fun and memorable. It also helps you to see the lives you are impacting. By getting involved in multiple charitable events throughout the year, you can spread out your giving and develop ties within the community that last a lifetime.
Before you donate, it’s important to research the organization and understand where your money is going. Nonprofit organizations are required to provide financial reports as well as impact statements to the public. You can often find this information on their websites. A quick Google search can also tell you about positive and negative press that different charities have received throughout the years, giving you a better understanding of an organization’s reputation. You can also access services that rate nonprofits on transparency and accountability, like charitynavigator.org.
How Should We Give?
There are many different ways to give to those in need, and financial contributions are only one option. When you give to charity, you should do so with joy, selflessness, and enthusiasm.
Consider your non-monetary contributions as well before you give a gift to a charity you respect. Do you coach little league on the weekends? What about volunteering at the homeless shelter or providing resources to a local A.A. meeting? Your actions are just as notable as your financial gifts, so it’s important to factor those in when determining how much your family wants to give.
When you donate to a cause, it should make you feel connected and happy. If writing that check causes you stress or uncertainty, wait or check your motives. Chances are, you will find a cause or a financial contribution that will fulfill your need to give back without causing uncertainty in the process. When we give with enthusiasm and purpose, the recipient feels that as well.
Make the Most of Your Charitable Giving
OneAscent can help you decide how much to give and when based on your financial goals and means. To learn more about our values-based financial services, contact our team today!