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This Christmas season, plan to be generous

By Beth Henary Watson

At many worthy charities, December is the most wonderful time of the year. For fundraising, that is. Nearly one-third of all nonprofit annual giving occurs in the 12th month.1 If you are a past giver, your e-mail, mailbox, and social media feeds become clogged with appeals.

So while we’re all in charitable moods, let’s step back and think a minute. Is there a way we could be more generous with relative ease? I think there is.

A key principle of successful investing, when applied to charitable giving, may help you up your donations without feeling much of a pinch.

The principle I’m talking about is automatic, regular contributions. Could you save $5,500 a year for retirement? What about $18,500? Those are the annual maximums for IRAs and 401(k)s, by the way. Regular people set aside these amounts all the time through biweekly payroll deductions or scheduled monthly transfers from their checking accounts.

Now let’s apply this to charitable giving. If your favorite charity passes the hat in December, how much might you drop in? A $10 bill? Maybe a $100 check? That’s great. But you could probably do $5 each pay period, equalling $130 a year. Will you miss that $5? Unlikely.

Employer-based giving efforts like United Way tap this reality well by making it easier for you to give a few hundred dollars each year to worthy causes through payroll deductions. While not universally loved, church pledge drives work the same way by asking you to make an annual commitment, which you can break into your preference of monthly or weekly installments. I don’t know about you, but I am unquestionably more generous with this “commit and forget” approach.

A side benefit of making planned contributions rather than a one-time shot at year’s end is that it helps the charity plan better. As a former nonprofit executive and current board member, I can assure you that your favorite worthy cause appreciates knowing that your donation is on its way!

There’s a whole tax and estate planning realm involving charitable giving that this article ignores. I’m just assuming you are a nice, regular person who would like to do what they can to help others.

This Christmas season, absolutely go ahead and participate in the Angel Trees, the food drives, the Senior Santas. It’s part of the fun. But consider if you can commit to a regularly scheduled donation throughout 2019. You might be surprised by how much good you can do.

Beth Henary Watson is an LPL Financial Planner with Corner Post Financial Planning. She currently serves on the board of CASA Hope for Children and is a past executive director of the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.