Canadians rank number two behind the United States in terms of philanthropic giving as a percentage of GDP.  There are plenty of good reasons for donating to charity, and I am going to show you how you can make the biggest impact with your time and money.

By now you’ve probably heard of the group of billionaires who are pledging to give away half of their wealth to charity.  Led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, this recent generosity of the super rich is unprecedented and has a chance to redefine philanthropy and make a real difference.

When You’re Young, Donate Time

When you are young there are a tremendous amount of financial pressures in your life.  Most people start out paying off consumer debt, saving for a down payment on a house, contributing to their RRSP and TFSA accounts, paying down their mortgage, buying a new car, raising a family, and saving for their child’s education.

Adding significant charitable contributions to these enormous financial responsibilities could be next to impossible for a young person to manage, especially if they are in debt.  By ensuring your own financial house is in order before donating to charity, you can set yourself up for more meaningful contributions later in life.

While most young individuals may be lighter in the wallet they can make up for it by donating their time and energy to worthwhile causes.  Consider getting involved with your favourite charity by volunteering at an event, helping out on a fundraising committee, or joining their Board of Directors.

Living on a single income we can’t afford any significant monetary contributions to charity.  A few years ago I joined a fundraising committee with the MS Society and led a team of co-workers, friends and family that raised close to $10,000 at the MS Walk.  This effort certainly made much more of an impact than any donation I could have scraped together that year.

Fewer Charities, Bigger Impact

When you do decide to donate to charity, you won’t struggle to find a worthwhile cause to support.  People are more likely to give to a charity in which they have a personal connection to, whether that is a love for animals or children, or a friend or relative suffering from a particular ailment.

Narrowing down your list of favourite charities is important because it will help you plan your gifts in a way that fits into your available budget.  How many times are you asked for charitable support each year?  There’s door-to-door canvassing, co-worker or employer fund raising events, children’s school activities, and various relief efforts around the globe.  You can’t even shop for groceries without being asked for $2 to support the stores’ charity of the month.

All of these donations add up over the course of the year and, if you can’t say no, they can definitely impact your finances.  I like to forecast my income and expenses for the year and plan for my charitable giving by setting aside money in the appropriate month where the fundraising will take place.  And if you can’t say no, set aside some miscellaneous money each month to cover your spontaneous donations.

Making Your Impact Later In Life

Most people don’t make a significant philanthropic gift until after the age of 60.  In fact, most major donations are likely bequeathed to an organization upon their death.  This makes a lot of sense, considering that most, if not all, of your financial obligations are looked after, you may be in your highest income earning years, and you may have accumulated a fair bit of savings by this time.

Delaying your charitable contributions until later in life will also give you more time to choose an organization that is truly meaningful to you.  And if your gift is significant you might even have the ability to direct your donation to something very specific in that organization, such as medical research, infrastructure, an endowment, or student awards.

Donating To Charity Is Important

Whether you decide to give your time and money now or in the future is your choice.  Donating to charity is a personal and private matter, and most people give quietly without any hidden motivation.  For now I am content to donate my time and energy while I’m young and still building our financial foundation, but I hope to have the means to contribute significantly in the future.

You can also donate things other than time and money, should that be a route that you wish to follow. One such way is by making a sponsored boat donation. When donating an old boat, all you have to do is contact the charity and let them know your intentions. The charity will then walk you through the entire process and will handle the sale of your boat themselves. The money for which the boat sells is then used by the charity to fund one of its causes. As an added bonus, you will receive a tax deduction once the sale has been completed.

Do you feel that it’s important to give whatever you can afford to charity?

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