So you’re feeling generous. The Christmas season does that to many of us. Perhaps it’s the recognition of the great gift of God, His Incarnation.. For some it’s just time to get a tax write-off before the year ends. Whatever your motivation, it’s a good idea to give–because when you give you take the focus off yourself and at least temporarily release the grip money has on your life.
You may have favorite charities, or you may be looking for something new. How should you begin?
Here are the ten things you need to do before giving away your money or your time to a charity:
1. Start with your values. Think about the things that are important to you—hunger, evangelism, children, curing a particular disease, etc. What needs push your buttons? Think about your obligations. Search the Scriptures.
2. Don’t forget your church: While there are many needs met by organizations that spend a lot of money presenting their work and raising funds, don’t forget your local church. The Scriptural teaching on giving is quite clear that the local body of believers should be your first concern.
3. Support your friends: If you have a friend who has to raise his or her support as a missionary or works at an organization that has their employees handle their own fundraising, that’s a good place to start. They need your help, and if you trust their values and judgment, it can give you some assurance.
4. Think about it: While its not a big deal to be spontaneous with small gifts—dropping a few dollars in The Salvation Army kettle or similar on the spot decisions—if you’re going to give a sizeable gift, don’t do it immediately, in response to a strong, emotional appeal. Allow your head to catch up with your heart. Think about it. Do some research. Pray about it—ask God for guidance.
5. Consult the charity watchdogs: If you are thinking about giving to a Christian organization, you can get information on a group’s legitimacy, efficiency, financial transparency and practices, and other information online from Ministry Watch. For organizations that are not expressly Christian, consult GuideStar.
6. Find new missions to support: These two groups and others such as the ECFA or the BBB Wise Give Alliance have lists of organizations that address every possible need. You can also consult publications such as the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
7. Determine if a group needs your money. Check out the size of an organization’s endowment; determine how much of a cash balance they had remaining at the end of their last fiscal year. Charities should be spending most of their money every year—it keeps them accountable to donors, and its why you give them money.
8. Be clear about a group’s programs: Before you send money or volunteer time, get detailed information from the organization on its mission, its goals, what programs it has to address problems, what it sees as success. Do its passions match yours? Is it forthright about what it is doing and why? Get literature or at least look at a group’s website.
9. Can you get the kids involved?: Particularly at Christmas, it’s a great idea to involve your children in a project, whether it’s a service project or a giving project—such as packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, or shopping to help an inmate’s child through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree. Helping kids learn about the joy and value of giving to others is a great new priority for the holiday season.
10. Find the joy: What would give you joy? God loves a cheerful giver and so does everyone else. Get a kick out of giving a little beyond your means. Find some up close and personal enough to see someone smile as a result of your efforts.
Go ahead, get generous! If you do it the right way, it will become a tremendous Christmas tradition.