Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

There's something about the holidays that makes us reflect on our lives, our families and our good fortune. At the same time, we can't help but be aware of the many people who could use a little extra help. In the spirit of the season, many deserving groups find the holidays a perfect time to reach out for donations. So, while the last two articles have focused on traditional gift giving and spreading the gift of knowledge, this time I'd like to share some thoughts on another important aspect of giving - charities.

All through the year, but especially during the holidays, you may be approached by a variety of organizations that you'd like to support. And while you want to be generous, the sheer number of requests for donations can often be a little overwhelming.

If you can't afford to give to every worthy cause, you don't have to feel like Uncle Scrooge. With just a little strategic planning, you can find the best place and the best way to share your good fortune. Whether your donations are large or small, here are some ideas to help you give meaningfully to the charities of your choice while staying within your means.

- Support a cause that reflects your interests. Are you passionate about the arts? Medicine? Have you or a friend or family member been helped in the past by a specific organization?

Consider turning these interests or experiences into a focus for giving. Whether it's the American Heart Association, a scholarship fund for budding young musicians or a foundation that supports financial literacy, giving to a group that has meaning for you in some way can have many personal rewards as well.

- Look to your own community. From senior groups to after-school day care to homeless shelters, every community has programs and projects that need additional support. Think about where your dollars could make the greatest difference. You might decide to give a one-time gift or even set up an ongoing contribution that will continue to connect you to your own neighborhood or city.

- Don't forget the gift of time. Nonprofits depend on local generosity to fund their yearly budgets, but most nonprofits also need volunteers to accomplish their goals. If you have a few hours a week to give, your contribution of time could be even more valuable than money, especially if you have a particular area of expertise that can serve the organization. And in my experience, you will find that your gift of time will provide you with an event at least as rewarding in return.


Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz is a Motley Fool contributor.

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