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To Give or Not to Give: How to Decide at the Holidays

November 8, 2012

The time of year is fast approaching when your mailbox will overflow with holiday appeals. Whether sponsoring meals for the homeless, sheltering stray pets, or providing lifesaving supplies to third-world countries, you will be asked to support many worthy causes this season. Choosing which organizations to support and which to turn down can be as stressful as holiday shopping. But it doesn’t have to be.

The holidays present a great time to start family traditions of giving and provide an opportunity to involve your children, grandchildren, and even extended family in the true spirit of the season.

Here are some tips to help make the most of your philanthropy this year:

  • Decide how much you have to give. This step allows you to measure the impact you can make and helps you to narrow your choices down to the organizations you feel can do the best work with your investment.
  • Convene a family board meeting. Put all of the appeals in the middle of the table and sort them according to issue area. Eliminate those issues that don’t resonate with anyone in the family. Try to narrow the choices to between 3 and 5. At this point, divide and conquer. Assign each family member 1 or 2 organizations to research and set a follow-up meeting for the next week. The research should include the organization’s missions, programs and a short summary of the work they do. At the follow-up meeting, give each family member a set number of votes and allow them to advocate for those organizations they want to support. Once decided, divide the money according to the votes.
  • Make a site visit or two. If you’ve never taken the time to visit the organizations you’re thinking of supporting, now is the time to start. Pick an organization that interests you and arrange a visit. Be sure to bring the whole family so you all benefit from seeing how your gift will make an impact. You can schedule site visits through the development offices of most organizations. Ask what time would be good to come by for a tour and to learn more about their work. Once you’ve connected to the cause, deciding how you want to give may be an easy choice!
  • Combine your dollars with deeds. The holidays are a wonderful time to explore the world of volunteerism. So many worthy organizations are in need of extra hands. This is a great opportunity to not only give your money, but also your time. Pick one charity and call their volunteer department to see what needs they have and where you might be able to help. Many organizations will even assist in finding and arranging a service project for you and your family. Be sure to do your homework before choosing a charity. There are several online resources including www.bbb.org/us.charity to help you find the right organization and/or projects.
  • Consider donating goods. An excellent way to involve extended family in your philanthropy is to arrange a supply drive. Ask each family member or guest at your holiday events to bring a toy to donate to a child or a coat to donate to a shelter. Contact the organizations you are thinking of supporting and ask for their wish lists to ensure you are collecting needed supplies.

No matter how you decide to give this year, try to find meaningful ways for the whole family to get involved. Keep in mind that the first place we learn to give is at home, and the best way to learn is by doing. Giving your children and grandchildren the chance to participate in philanthropy with you is one of the best gifts you can offer them this holiday season.

If you have any questions or would like more information of First Western’s philanthropic services, please contact our Director of Philanthropic Services, Alexis Boian at 303.531.8100.

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