Americans are expected to donate over $500 million to charities and nonprofits during Giving Tuesday this year. But while the Giving Tuesday donations are helpful, experts say many organizations could use the support throughout the year.
"Spreading your support out of the course of a year ensures the organizations you support are receiving steady income throughout the year and decreases the stress of year-end fundraising," Ashley Post, a spokeswoman for Charity Navigator, tells CNBC Make It.
With that in mind, instead of simply giving a one-off gift, consider working donations into your regular monthly or weekly spending. "Charitable giving should be a consideration in any budget," says Carol Fabbri, a certified financial planner and founder of Colorado-based Fair Advisors Institute. "No matter what size the gift, it's a powerful habit to get into," she says.
Here are six strategies to help you make your charitable giving a year-round activity.
With so many organizations in need of support, it can be daunting to make a decision on the spot when a charity asks you for a donation. Instead, consider what you're passionate about and select a few charitable causes you want to support over the next year.
Before making any donations, spend a few minutes looking up the nonprofit on watchdog sites such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Great Nonprofits. These sites rate nonprofits and allow you to find out more about the organization and how donations are spent.
"Giving money, as easy as it sounds, requires conscious effort," says Brandon Opre, a CFP with North Carolina-based TrustTree Financial. Will you remember to give $5 to the Salvation Army the next time you go grocery shopping? Or always have a few bucks in your pocket to give to a homeless person? By planning it out, you can ensure that you're organized and always hitting your target amount.
"Perhaps the best way to budget for planned giving is to do actually that — budget," says Aaron Graham, a CFP with South Carolina-based Abacus Wealth.
When it comes to creating a budget, CFP Kaleb Paddock recommends that you plan to donate a percentage of your income, rather than a dollar amount. "This way, if you are given a gift, get a bonus at work, or get a new client (if you are self-employed), you know ahead of time exactly how much you will set aside for your charitable giving," says Paddock, a Colorado-based financial planner with Ten Talents Financial Planning.
Once you've selected the organizations you want to support and a monthly budget amount that makes sense for your financial situation, you can make the entire process automatic. Many nonprofits and charities have portals that make it simple to set up a recurring monthly donation.
Social media can also help. If you follow your favorite organizations on Facebook or Instagram, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), you can easily set up a recurring monthly donation by simply clicking on the "donate" button located on their page.
Facebook and Instagram have built in giving options for nonprofits in the form of donation buttons and even active stickers in Facebook Stories.
Many large employers offer matching programs for your charitable giving, says Michael Hennessy, a CFP with Florida-based Harbor Crest Wealth Advisors. "Sadly, not many people take advantage of this valuable benefit," he says, adding that only a small percentage of employees submit matching gift requests. Yet this is a quick way to multiply the impact of your donation, so check your workplace intranet page or speak with HR to find out if your employer offers a program. "The one additional step would have a huge impact on the causes you hold dear," Hennessy says.
Beyond just employers, you should also check out other organizations' matching programs, such as universities. "As a young alumna, I pledged $333.33 per year," says Marguerita Cheng, CEO of Maryland-based Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Her university had a matching program that rewarded both monetary donations and volunteering, so she also donated about 30 hours a year of her time as well. With the university's program, this turned her approximately $300 donation into $1,000, she says.
"While they have been typically described as a tool for the 'wealthy,' if you give regularly and to more than two or three organizations, consider opening a donor-advised fund at Schwab Charitable or Fidelity Charitable," Paddock says.
Donor-advised funds are basically charitable investment accounts. If you transfer cash, securities or other assets to a donor-advised fund at a public charity, those funds can be invested tax-free and then distributed to nonprofits over time. Depending on your financial situation, you may even be able to take a tax deduction.
Paddock likes Schwab and Fidelity because both offer an easy-to-use website, as well as the ability to streamline all your giving in one location. With these accounts, you don't have to track receipts for tax deductions and you have the option to make yourself an anonymous donor.
If your budget is already tight and you don't have any dollars to donate, consider donating your time. "What charities need, even more so than money, is volunteer support," says Peter Hoglund, a CFP with New Jersey-based Wealth Enhancement Group.
Think about what talents you bring to the table, he says. If you work in IT, consider volunteering to help set up or support a small nonprofit's computer network. Maybe you're in finance or accounting. If so, consider a board position as treasurer or assisting on financial or tax questions. Still in school? Many charities need support expanding their social media reach, or friendly faces to work booths and give out flyers, Hoglund says.
You can also help out by asking others for financial support. Many organizations host donation drives or sponsor walk-a-thons that you can participate in and earn sponsorship from friends and family.
And last, think about giving away any extra clothes or other goods that you may not be using and are in good condition. Organizations such as Dress for Success, the Salvation Army and GreenDrop accept donations all year.
"'Tis the season for giving, and with a more thoughtful and disciplined approach to your giving, you can truly experience why it is often so much better to give than to receive," Graham says.
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