4 Steps to Creating a Charity Budget

Generosity

You care about giving back—you know you do! You always want to give to causes and people you care about. But when it comes time to donate to your local animal shelter or support someone's GoFundme, you get caught off guard. You worry that if you don't have the money or give to this cause, you won't have money to give next time. Or you simply procrastinate, promising yourself you'll dig out your wallet and put in your credit card tomorrow—and then the next day, or the next. A whole year passes, and you haven't supported the people or projects you believe in. 

Sound familiar? We thought so. (You're only human, after all.) But there's good news. Creating a charity budget can help you give more, more regularly, with less stress. Here are four steps you can take to make charitable giving a habit—not a hassle.  

STEP 1: Prioritize

There are so many good causes out there, and only one of you, so the first step in creating a charity budget should be picking the causes you're most passionate about. Giving consistently to the projects you believe in most will help target your impact, track the results, and promote the cause to others.

Start by brainstorming a few issues that really ring your charity bell. Then check out sites like Charity Navigator or Great Nonprofits to find effective, efficient groups doing work in those areas. But not every group you believe in is going to be a big charity or nonprofit. There are lots of good groups doing political or local work outside of the traditional charity sphere. Do a quick internet and social search for groups working on your core causes—especially smaller, local groups that might not have as big of a megaphone.

Whittle your list down to a handful, and get ready to give.

STEP 2: Divvy it Up Before You Pay Out

If you want to give without worrying that you're breaking the bank—or cutting into that dream vacation you've been saving up for—giving experts recommend following the 50 / 30 / 20 rule. Set aside half of your income each month for basic needs like housing, utilities and food, 30 percent for wants and wishes, and 20 percent for savings and paying down debts. Then pick if you want your giving to come out of wants or savings. 

If it's out of your wants budget, try to forgo a small indulgence you normally spend money on—a manicure, maybe, or one or two of your espressos a week—and divert that money to your giving fund. If you go the savings route, set up an earmarked bank account devoted to saving up for regular giving. This will help create a cushion if you come upon some lean times or give you some extra to donate to last-minute fundraisers or respond to a natural disaster or crisis.

Don't forget to set aside a monthly allowance of petty cash that you can carry around to give to people experiencing homelessness or fundraising jars at your local grocery store.

Don't have the funds to do the 50 / 30 / 20 split? Don't worry. Just give what you can—and give consistently. 

STEP 3: Automate and Replicate

Even if you've set aside a certain percentage of your income for giving, it can be hard to remember to actually donate. Save yourself time and stress by setting up weekly or monthly donations. Charitable giving tools, like Charityvest, allow you to set up recurring donations,  then rest easy knowing your money's going to good causes without all the hassle.

The doubly good news? Recurring donations don't just help you stay sane—they're a tremendous boon to the organizations you donate to, as well. Nonprofits are working hard every day—not just at the end of the year when most people tune in and donate. Being able to count on regular support helps these charities keep the lights on—and it also means they're spending less time and money trying to snag one-time donations and more time on the issues you care about.

STEP 4: Double Your Impact

You're giving like a pro, so now make your dollars count twice. Ask your HR department if they offer matching programs for charitable giving, and watch your donation double. If your company doesn't offer matching grants, spearhead a campaign to start one or help organize some office fundraisers.

You can also get your family on friends in on the giving game. Pick some charities you want to support as a family or a friend group, and create a jar or a digital account to collect funds. You can also parlay your birthday or Christmas present into some social impact by asking loved ones to give to charities in your name.

Okay, you're on your way. And remember, whether you have a dollar, ten dollars, or ten thousand, a charity budget will help you give more often with less stress.   

Create your Charityvest giving fund—it's free and takes 90 seconds.

Libby DeCamps

Libby is the VP of Marketing at Charityvest. Libby is responsible for conceptualizing and executing integrated strategies that drive lead generation, increase customer engagement, and build brand loyalty. Prior to joining Charityvest, she led marketing organizations at other Atlanta-based startups, FullStory and Gather.

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