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Why You Need a Holiday Donation Budget

November 4, 2021 No Comments
Closeup of a Christmas tree. A red holiday ornament with a snowflake is in focus

Is it just me or did 2021 FLY by? It’s hard to believe that the Thanksgiving and Christmas are around the corner. But it’s true, friends. As I start to map out a rough budget for my holiday spending, I added a new category to track: holiday donations. Every year around this time, the charitable asks start rolling in and I always want to support. It feels great in the moment, but I’m not always mindful of how much I’m giving or the total sum of my gifts. So, this year, I’m setting aside a holiday donation budget and you need one too.

The holidays are a busy season for giving

According to the Blackbaud Institute’s 2020 Charitable Giving Report, October – December accounted for 36% of charitable donations last year. Looking at November and December, those two months represented 28% of charitable giving, with 20% of that coming through in December. End-of-year giving is an important season for many nonprofits because they know people and companies are interested in making donations for both personal and financial reasons. Donations to 501(c)3-designated organizations made by December 31 can be deducted from your taxes the following year. That’s a big incentive for many people so you can expect multiple appeals from multiple channels.

There are three main buckets for charitable asks between now and the end of the year.

  • Holiday-related asks: Holiday meal giveaways, toy drives, and gatherings hosted for the community
  • End-of-year nonprofit fundraising: Organizations trying to capture additional funding before December 31
  • Unplanned personal asks: GoFundMe requests to support families in need, personal asks from your network to buy items
Infographic listing three types of holiday donation asks

Why create a holiday donation budget

For many of us, there is an emotional element to when and how we give. We learn about a cause that connects with us or hear about a situation that moves us to donate. Now, take that level of emotion and multiply it by 100 for the holidays. It can be very easy to donate $20 here or $40 there to multiple organizations, then go out and spend $100 on toys for a toy drive. If you’re doing this, your heart is in the right place. And, that is great!

We are called to be cheerful givers, but we also need to be good stewards of our resources.

Creating a holiday donation budget is not about slowing down your donations. In fact, it can actually do the opposite. You may sit down with your budget and realize that you can actually afford to give more. A holiday donation budget is about planning and intentionality.

Getting started with a holiday donation budget

To get started, ask yourself these three questions.

How much can you afford to donate? This one is simple. You can’t make a plan to spend without knowing how much you can afford. If you don’t know where to start, think about how much you’re planning to spend on holiday gifts. Start with 20-25% of that amount as your base and go from there.

What causes or activities matter most to you in this season? This is where we start getting intentional about our dollars.

How will you allocate your donations across the three categories identified above? So, you’ve decided how much to give and what matters most to you. Great. Now, thinking back to those three categories of asks, how will you allocate your money across them? You might decide that you want to use your donation funds to just bless individuals or families personally with cash, versus give to a nonprofit. Or you may decide that you’ll split your money between holiday food and toy drives and 1-2 nonprofits.

Infographic listing three actions to take when creating a holiday giving plan

Thinking about holiday-related asks, I will likely focus my giving on asks to support feeding families and providing toys/books to children. Looking ahead towards Giving Tuesday and year-end appeals, I plan to direct my gifts to small, local nonprofits versus large national organizations.

Giving with your heart and your mind

The next two months are also a busy season for giving as people seek out opportunities to spread holiday cheer to others. I believe in the giving spirit and cheer of the holiday season, so I know that I over-index during the holidays. Many of you probably do the same. Let’s all push ourselves to be more mindful as we go into these next two months by creating a holiday donation budget.

Cheers to being a blessing!


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