How much money can we afford to give to charity?

You want to give more to charity, but don’t want to sacrifice your family to do it. Here are some simple thoughts to help you find the balance between providing for your family and giving to charity.

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  • Knowing how much money you can safely give to charity is challenging for everyone. Who doesn’t want to give more to make the world a better place? On the other hand, no one wants to become a charity case as a result of giving too much to charity. On average, Americans who itemize their deductions donate about three or four percent of their income to charity. About 20 percent give more than 10 percent of their income to charity.

  • Here are some tips to help you find the right level of donation for your family:

    1. You can probably give more than you think.

    2. Focus on one, two or maybe three causes rather than scattering money here and there.

    3. Volunteer your time toward your cause, too.

    4. The money you give shouldn’t be the money you’d save for college or retirement.

    5. Organize your personal finances to empower you to give more.

    6. Eliminating debt will enable you to give much more. The interest you may be paying is eating into every good and noble thing you’d like to do.

    7. You can cut expenses significantly over time by driving your cars for a longer period of time; buying cars — the transaction itself — is expensive.

    8. Stay in your home longer. By staying in your home for a very long time, your mortgage payment will slowly shrink (in economic terms) with inflation, allowing you more flexibility over time to donate to charity.

    9. Make your donations a priority. If you only give what is left, you won’t be giving much. Make your donations first, then contribute to savings and, finally, spend what is left.

    10. Set a goal for contributing to charity, perhaps as a percentage of your income.

    11. Measure your financial progress in all areas, including giving to charity.

    12. Leverage your contributions by motivating others to give.

    13. Get the whole family involved in your cause.

    14. Let the kids donate their time and money, too.

    15. Get your extended family involved.

    16. Get the neighbors involved.

    17. You will have setbacks.

    18. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks.

    19. Think long term.

    20. Everything counts. One can of soup donated to a food bank may feed a hungry family.

    21. Little things add up. One can of soup every week for years will feed many hungry families.

    22. Don’t be ashamed to give a little.

    23. Everyone can do something. When you can’t give money, give time.

    24. Be patient. You are making a difference.

    25. Don’t give up on feeding hungry people because there will always be hungry people; the ones you feed will be glad you didn’t give up.

    26. Set your ego aside. You can do more when you’re not worried about who gets the credit.

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  • Giving money to charity is a deeply personal thing that brings joy both to the families who give and to the families who receive. Everyone has a chance to do both in life.

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Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.


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