This year’s Giving Tuesday comes at a tough time for both nonprofits and the people who donate to them.
Approximately 70% of charities serving low-income and moderate-income communities say they’re still seeing increased demand for services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent Fed Communities survey. At the same time, those nonprofits are coping with labor shortages, inflation and a lack of child care, the survey found.
Donors are facing financial headwinds themselves. Inflation is eating into household budgets and layoffs are occurring at some tech companies. Meanwhile, the markets
have been on a downward slide this year, which is bad news for shareholders and for charitable giving, because charitable donations tend to mirror market performance.
If your budget is tight, here are some tips on how to make the most impact on Giving Tuesday, the annual online campaign encouraging people to donate to charities and the unofficial start of giving season.
“Whether you can give $5 or $5 million, it’s important to find a way to give back on Giving Tuesday — charities are society’s safety nets, and they’re being stretched more than ever,” said Kevin Scally, a spokesman for the charity-rating website Charity Navigator.
Donate your time
If donating money is not an option for you this year, consider donating your skills by volunteering with a nonprofit. Aside from helping with basic duties like sorting through food donations, volunteers can make a real impact by providing specialized professional help, like writing, graphic design, website management or legal advice. Plus, it’s good for you: There’s evidence that volunteering improves your mental health if you’re 50 or older.
VolunteerMatch and Engage are two national sites where you can quickly search for volunteer opportunities in your area. Cities and counties often run their own sites listing volunteer slots, and so do national umbrella nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity, Feeding America, Meals on Wheels and United Way.
Get your donation matched
One easy way to get more bang for your donation buck is to have your donation matched. Many companies will match employees’ donations to nonprofits, but a lot of that money sits untapped because employees aren’t aware they’re eligible for this benefit.
To find out if your company does this, contact your HR office if you have one, or do a quick search of Charity Navigator’s Employee Match Programs database. Some companies offer significant matches: Johnson & Johnson
matches up to $10,000 in donations and General Electric
matches up to $5,000, according to Double the Donation.
Many charities also offer their own matching challenges on Giving Tuesday, making it easy to double or triple your gift or multiply it even further, Scally said. “Typically, a donor pledges to match each contribution that comes in within a specific timeframe up to a certain amount to inspire generosity,” Scally said. “Each gift you give will unlock a portion of the match fund.”
There’s also a charitable giving platform called the Giving Multiplier that will match donations to charities that are considered highly effective.
Act like MacKenzie Scott
The billionaire philanthropist and former wife of Amazon
founder Jeff Bezos has become one of the best-known donors in the U.S., handing out more than $12 billion to nonprofits since 2019. She’s gotten a lot of attention because she has donated so much money so fast, which isn’t something many people can do themselves.
But everyday donors can take a page from her playbook by making no-strings-attached gifts. Scott has given mostly “unrestricted” gifts, meaning that she lets nonprofits decide how to use her money. It’s a strategy that appears to be working well so far, according to a recent analysis of Scott’s giving by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.
How can non-billionaire donors do this? “Allow nonprofits to use resources where they are needed,” said Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy. “Don’t tell the food pantry, ‘You can only use my gift for food’ when the reality is the rent for the venue where the food is served and the salaries for the staff who coordinate the volunteers are just as necessary to feed the hungry.”
Break up your donation into smaller parts
Can’t swing a $50 donation during one pay period? Split up your donation into smaller amounts and spread it out over several months with a recurring donation. Many nonprofits make it easy to set up a recurring donation on their websites, but make sure you know how to cancel the donation if your budget changes.
This giving season, Facebook
users who sign up to make a recurring donation through a fundraiser on Facebook will have up to $100 of their donation matched by Facebook parent company Meta after the second monthly donation. Meta says it will match up to $7 million in donations this way.
One new company now offers “donate now, pay later,” similar to “buy now, pay later” services. As with BNPL, donors considering that route should read the terms of service carefully and understand the impact of late payments before they sign up.
Host your own fundraiser on social media
“This gives you the opportunity to tell your loved ones about a cause that’s close to your heart and encourage them to support a charity making a difference,” Scally said. “Often, folks can raise hundreds or thousands more than they could personally give by getting their friends and family to donate to their fundraiser.”
Pool your money in a giving circle
Another way to maximize your giving impact is to join a giving circle. That’s a group of people that pools their money so they can make larger donations to nonprofits together. Giving circles decide as a group where to donate, so they can also be a way to build community and meet new people. You can search for a giving circle in your area on Philanthropy Together.
Small acts count, too
Helping a neighbor rake their leaves or paying for the coffee order of the person behind you in line are just two examples of how to participate in Giving Tuesday without spending a lot of money, according to Giving Tuesday organizers, who list other low-cost ideas here.
“Sometimes a kind word is all you need to start a chain of generosity that lasts throughout the day,” the Giving Tuesday website says.