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How to create your giving plan

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Generosity is a value many of us put great emphasis on. But, bringing that value to life in a way that works for you and your family is easier said than done. Just like other spending decisions we make, we should approach generosity with intention and purpose. One way to do that is to create a giving plan. A giving plan is a guideline you develop that helps you determine when, where and why you should give. It’s a set of core principles and money rules that help guide your annual giving.

It also helps you to determine when you shouldn’t give. Like impulse buying, impulse giving can be destructive to your overall budget. If we said “yes” to every opportunity we had, most of us would quickly be out of money. Below, discover the components of a successful giving plan and construct yours with your personal values in mind.

Step 1: Decide what you care about

The first step in creating your giving plan is to identify what kinds of issues and themes you value. Begin by thinking about your priorities. Do you value your church? A community initiative that impacts you locally? A cause that you care greatly about? You don’t need to identify a specific organization yet. Just take time to find common philanthropic themes between you and your family. You can even involve your children in this first step.

Step 2: Decide where to give

Once you’ve identified common causes or issues that you want to contribute to, it’s time to get more specific. Begin to align the causes you care about with organizations that address those causes. You may have some non-profits in mind already. If not, use a research tool like Charity Navigator or Guide Star and begin to dive into the inner workings of organizations you’re considering giving to. Check ratings and reviews, make sure the charity is transparent with their spending, and learn more about individual charity governance. You should also consider impact when you decide what group or groups to give to. If you like to see the change your donation can make, consider sticking with a small, local charity. If you want to add to funding for a larger cause, then a national charity may be for you.

Step 3: Decide how much to give

Here’s the question most of us are wondering: How much should I give? Before you set aside a percentage of your income to donate, remember: being generous isn’t just about money. Generosity comes in all forms, including time and talent. Look at your skill set and make room in your day to volunteer. If you want to give monetarily, use a budget tool to lay out your spending for the year. Separate your needs and wants and include giving as a line item in your budget. Identify how much you could give each year without impacting important factors like emergency savings and other critical expenses.

Step 4: Put your plan in action

Once you’ve outlined your three main giving plan steps, you’re ready to put your plan into action:

  1. Causes you care about
  2. Where to give
  3. How much to give

Remember, carrying out your giving plan also means having the discipline to stay focused on your outlined causes. If spontaneous giving is important to you, then think about setting aside a percentage of your giving budget for spur-of-the-moment generosity.