By Barry Silverberg, Executive Director, Nonprofit Austin | CommunitySpace | Center for Nonprofit Studies at Austin Community College

While the holiday season often focuses on helping others, the interest in charitable giving should not be limited to any season. It reflects our values, what we believe, and our inner sense of responsibility.

Every dollar you give should be your personal contribution to strengthen the organization and/or  causes that you believe are helping to heal the world. It is your personal way of affecting change and making our world a better place.

Before making a charitable contribution, consider the following questions:

1. How does giving support my values?

2. How can I give during my life and after I’m gone?

3. Which causes are closest to my heart?

4. What represents success in that cause?

5. What will it take to achieve success?

6. What can I give that will have the greatest impact on the road to success?

7. How can I incorporate philanthropy into my financial strategies to help maximize impact?

General tips for giving

A Consumer Reports article examined the best and worst charities for your donations and provided important tips to keep in mind during the season of giving and any time of the year:

Verify tax-exempt status. If you’re not sure whether donations to a particular charity are tax-deductible (don’t assume they are), confirm a group’s status by checking with the group or by searching on the IRS website –

Give directly. If you’re contacted by a professional fundraiser for a charity you want to support, hang up and give directly instead. “The fundraiser might be keeping two-thirds of the money,” says Stephanie Kalivas of CharityWatch.

Watch for fees. Online giving platforms and crowdfunding websites often charge payment processing fees on donations, perhaps three percent or more, which reduces the impact of your gift. The charity may also be charged transaction fees if you send your payment via credit card. To avoid those fees, consider giving by cash, check, or direct bank transfer when possible.

Request privacy. If you don’t want to be bothered by endless fundraising appeals, tell groups you support that you don’t want your name and contact information sold, exchanged, or rented to other groups or for-profit companies, a common practice among some charities. You also can ask the groups not to send you further appeal letters, email, or phone solicitations. Check the charity’s privacy policy before giving.

Be on guard for soundalikes. Some low-rated charities have names that resemble those of high-rated ones. “In some cases, soundalike charities are there with the intent to deceive donors into thinking they are donating to somebody else,” says Bennett Weiner of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. In other instances, groups have similar names because they’re focusing on the same causes.”

When my wife and I contribute to an organization, we do so with no other motive than to share our blessings and to do our small part to further heal this world. Once we give, we trust the organization to act wisely and use our contribution effectively. If we have any concerns, we do not give to that entity.

The better you understand your own motivations and the value system that underlies them, the more satisfied and the better giver you will be.

For over 23 years, Nonprofit Austin | CommunitySpace | Center for Nonprofit Studies has been a leading provider of nonprofit workforce and career development in Central Texas. We provide accessible transformative workforce development learning opportunities. Our inclusive CommunitySpace offers working and meeting space for nonprofit volunteer and professional collaboration. If you want to learn more about nonprofits, visit