The holiday season marks a great time to donate to charities and local organizations in need, as this is a season to acknowledge the things you’re thankful for in your own life and give generously to those who are less fortunate.

It sounds cheesy, but giving to others is proven to make people feel good. Being involved in meaningful change is not just good for the organization you’re helping — it also brings value to you and your family. What’s more, when you choose a charity to support around the holidays, you get to watch their progress throughout the new year and see the impact that your donation has made.

Many people start out with eager intentions to be generous in the holiday season, and then quickly become overwhelmed when they realize just how many options there are for charitable giving. How do you select an organization to give to? Is it better to choose one, or donate to multiple causes?

We’ve compiled a few simple dos and don’ts to guide your decision-making. Read on to learn how you can give back in a meaningful way to help your chosen charity this holiday season.

DO Get Your Kids Involved

Choosing a charity to support is a great experience for everyone in your family. Get your kids involved now, and you will set them up for a lifetime of understanding the importance of giving back to their community.

Let your children help you select a place to give and explain to them exactly how your money will help other people in need. It’s helpful to address a need that kids can understand. Supporting a food security initiative is an excellent way to teach kids that not everyone has easy access to high-quality, healthy food. By donating to a fund such as the Southern Baja Food Security Alliance (SBFSA), your children can understand that they are helping a family like their own enjoy fresh food.

DON’T Assume Giving Time is Better than Giving Money

Many charities are inundated with volunteers around the holidays because it’s so popular to seek out ways to give back toward the end of the year. While you may be tempted to donate one day or weekend of your time instead of money in the spirit of camaraderie, writing a check may ultimately do more good.

By giving money, we empower a charitable organization to do what they’re good at, instead of taking a day to try our hand at an activity that we might not be able to do very efficiently. Your financial support can also be distributed throughout the year to meet the organization’s needs as they arise. Of course, if you’re still in doubt about whether to give your time or money, ask your favorite charity what would make the most impact to them.

DO Give to Organizations with Clear Goals

No matter the issue that’s close to your heart, there are likely multiple organizations that are involved with providing relief and support. Doing research can help you identify which charity is the best one to put your money behind. Unfortunately, because people are often in a generous spirit during the holidays, this is also a prime season for charity scams — be wary of organizations that pressure you to donate on the spot, or that don’t provide clarity around what they do.

A legitimate organization will offer clear objectives and be able to show their results. Depending on the sum you’re donating, you may even want to download the organization’s previous financial reports to see how much of your donation is likely to make it to the people in need.

At ICF, we always communicate clear goals for our funds. For instance, our ICF Health Initiatives are based on extensive local research, so we can ascertain the best way to support health professionals in the communities that need it. We strive to increase access to high-quality health services and identify innovative health solutions – and we publish our progress and financial reports all along the way.

DON’T Try to Give to Every Charity that Solicits You

As much as you’re filled with the holiday spirit and want to give money to as many charities as possible, you may actually make a stronger impact with a single donation to one recipient. This is especially true when you’re aiding a small or local organization.

Instead of feeling guilty and donating a few bills here and a few coins there, channel your dollars into a larger, lump sum donation to one organization where it will truly make an impact on their efforts. Of course, choosing more than one organization to help isn’t out of the question – just keep in mind that you may have a greater effect when you coordinate your efforts in one decisive direction.

DO Plan Your Giving in Advance

Consider which issues you’re interested in and spend a few minutes doing research a few weeks before you plan to donate. Without a firm plan in hand, you may end up giving to a less reputable organization.

Plenty of decent charities send bell ringers or representatives out into the community at this time of year. Although this makes last-minute giving easier, it’s important to make sure an organization has a good reputation and is in alignment with your beliefs before you put money in their bucket. If you already know a trusted charity that comes to your neighborhood asking for donations, decide ahead of time how much you’d like to give, so you’re not scrambling through your wallet when the time comes. Keep in mind, if you haven’t heard of the organization and you can’t find clear information about them online, it may not be a trustworthy fund. If you have a strange feeling for any reason, search for somewhere else to give — there are plenty more reputable and authentic initiatives where you can feel secure that your donation is being used for good.   

Giving to a charity around the holidays is not only a good way to boost your own happiness by spreading kindness, it’s also a wonderful way to help your community, be it local or otherwise. With a bit of planning and some input from your family, your giving tradition will be giving you the warm fuzzies in no time.


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