by Julie Jaggernath
Charitable organizations and the people they serve are extremely appreciative of the donations and support they receive. Most depend on fundraising and the generosity of the community. However, there can be times when donating financially isn’t possible, even if you have a longstanding commitment to doing that. Donors face income uncertainty for a variety of reasons – job loss, the pandemic, family changes – and then have to cut back on non-essential spending or use an emergency budget. An overall decrease in donations can cause big problems for charities, but when donors donate themselves into debt, that’s no good outcome either.
If your financial situation worsened and you cut back on your expenses accordingly, it’s normal to feel guilty if a charity you’ve been supporting asks for more help. Although you may not be able to donate as much as you did before, there are still many ways to be generous and support the causes you believe in. Here are some things to consider:
Plan Donations Into Your Budget
A household budget based on your current level of income is the best way to plan what you want to spend and keep yourself from getting into more debt than you can manage. A realistic spending plan accounts for all monthly and periodic expenses, helps you manage your debt payments and bills, and sets money aside for what’s important to you. If making donations and helping others financially is an important part of your life, draft your budget accordingly. That way, if you want to donate to a charity on a monthly basis, or have some money available to support crowd-funding causes as they come up, your budget will help make that happen.
Look for Small Ways to Help
Every dollar counts when it comes to giving. As painter Vincent Van Gogh stated, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” If you’ve ever collected your spare change in a jar, you’ve likely been surprised by how quickly it adds up. To find small ways to help, try only using cash as much as possible for purchases. This will not only help you get a better feel for what you’re spending, but can also leave you with some change to toss into a jar. When that jar is full, deposit the coins into a separate bank account. Use that account to make your donations and don’t worry if they’re small. Many others will also make small donations and together, your collective contributions will add up to a big difference.
Ways to Donate Besides Giving Money
Focusing just on being generous with money can put an unnecessary strain on your finances. And contributing to every campaign isn’t possible either. Choose organizations or endeavours which support people or causes you value. Then let your budget be your guide. If you feel that your financial donations aren’t enough, look for other ideas to balance your desire to help with the need to stay out of debt. These might include:
- Donating once a year, such as with part of your tax refund, if that works best with your budget. A lump sum won’t be any less appreciated than donations throughout the year.
- Set up your own fundraiser on Facebook or another social media platform. This can be done as part of your birthday celebrations or in honour of a loved one. It will also help draw awareness along with donations for a cause you support.
- If you have items to donate that a charity could use, check their website or contact them to see if they accept “in kind” donations. Some of these are eligible for tax receipts. Check with the charity and/or CRA to learn more about gifts and income tax.
- Many charities have a wish list. Ask for one and redeem your credit card or loyalty points for an item on the list.
- If you get a raise at work, donate the raise portion and continue budgeting with your pay as if you didn’t get the raise.
- Donate your time and expertise. Whether you know how to build a website, renovate a bathroom, or can mentor volunteers, some organizations need the tangible help more than the money. If you have a truck you might just become a charity’s best friend. Look for opportunities to volunteer with moving things that otherwise would require renting a truck.
- Help with awareness. Every charity needs to get their message out. You never know who will find out about the cause you care about and make a sizable donation.
- We’ve all heard the motto of Canadian Blood Services: “It’s in you to give.” If you’re able to, consider helping others when they need it most by donating blood.
How to Get Help with Your Budget so that You Can Donate Confidently
Every donation, no matter how big or small, financial or otherwise, will help make a difference in someone else’s life. The donations you make shouldn’t put you into debt and end up costing more than you can afford to give. Much like the safety instructions at the start of every flight, you need to put your own mask on before you’re in a position to help someone else. If you need help with reviewing your financial situation so that you can donate confidently, try contacting a non-profit credit counselling organization in your local area. A non-profit counsellor would be happy to assist you with making or improving your budget in a free and confidential appointment. If you are currently behind on payments, a non-profit counsellor can also help you make a plan for how best to take action to get out of debt.