3 Mistakes Year-End Donors Make and How to Avoid Them


moneyMost of us are in the final throes of the holiday season and making final preparations for the end of the year. Instead of holiday carols, it may be an appropriate time to sing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like…. year-end donation season?!” That’s right, did you know half of all non-profits receive a majority of their annual donations between the months of October and December?

Though many of us begin this season with good intentions, it’s easy to get caught up in its hurried demands, causing our shining dreams of intentional giving to morph into a scrambled, last minute flurry of check-signing to causes we barely recognize.

Not this year!

Here are three of the most common mistakes we make when giving at year-end and how to avoid them:

Getting caught up in last minute appeals.  Many of us know what it’s like to receive the overwhelming rush of contribution requests from nonprofits, many of which we’ve never heard of. To avoid the temptation of giving to these solicitors, pause now and ask yourself:

  • What causes do I care most about this year?
  • What nonprofits are doing great work in my area?

If you need help kick-starting ideas, check out Great Nonprofits or Charity Navigator . Once you’ve identified the organizations that matter to you, make a list and post it in clear view. This puts you back in control of your giving priorities by establishing a clear list of the organizations that will have your attention this year.

Spreading donations too thin. The truth is, whether you’re giving $1,000, $10,000 or $100,000, dividing it between too many organizations lessens the impact you’ll have on each. This is why it’s important to be strategic about the number of causes to which you’re allotting funds. There may be countless giving choices available, but concentrating your donations to three organizations or less helps ensure you make a meaningful impact. Here are a couple tips for making your top three choices this year:

  • Make a family decision – Make giving extra special this year by presenting a short list of 5-8 organizations to your kids or close family members and asking them to help you choose the top three your family will give to this year.
  • Decide which organization has the greatest need – Try looking for new organizations hoping to grow or established organizations trying to launch new initiatives, branches or programs.

Forgetting to donate by December 31. Time just seems to move faster during the year-end holiday season, and it’s easy to forget to prioritize giving before December 31st. While the busy demands of this time might offer good excuses to delay giving, remember that forgetting to donate before December 31st helps neither us nor the nonprofits we support. In order for your donation to count in 2016 (for the nonprofit and for your tax deduction) it must be postmarked on or before December 31. Since we never know what might happen at the end of the year — sick kids, unexpected holiday guests and more, it’s important to plan to give long before the end of the year. Consider moving “year-end giving” to the top of your to-do list today.

What other challenges do you face when giving at year-end?

What strategies have you found helpful?

Share with me!

If you’d like to take greater steps to transform your year-end giving, I can help you make it happen. I serve both philanthropic foundations and individuals by enabling them to maximize their giving impact and satisfaction.

No matter your approach, thank you for giving both now and throughout the year to further the mission of many of our world’s greatest causes.

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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