by DAVID AFT

You have probably heard that 50 percent of the nation’s nonprofit organizations receive a majority of their annual donations in the weeks between October and December. It’s true. Most of us haven’t really thought about this pattern of giving, but I have, and I encourage you to think about it, as well, because it isn’t ideal for many organizations.

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Every December, there’s a big push to send end-of-year donations, as charities near and far vie for our attention and our wallets.

The holiday season adds its own demands, with countless groups working to make the holidays a little better for our less fortunate friends and neighbors. Many also “time” their giving to maximize the tax advantages of their charitable donations. 

But then January comes and the “goodwill toward man” spirit in our souls is shaded by the exhaustion that follows the holiday rush. It takes a few weeks to get back into the groove of regular, day-to-day operations. It also takes a little while for our pocketbooks to recover from this very special, but sometimes expensive season. Our focus shifts and donating to charities is the last thing on our minds. After all, we wrote all those checks in December, right?

In the meantime, many nonprofit organizations are starving for funds in January. Their needs didn’t go away just because we turned a page on the calendar. For example, extra donations in December to a food bank mean they can feed more food-insecure individuals and families, and that’s usually what happens. Not every organization is in a position to save those extra donations, like squirrels stowing away acorns for the winter. For many charities, the transition from December to January moves them from a feast to a famine scenario.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are four ways to help keep your favorite charities afloat all year round.

1.   AUTOPILOT—Consider setting up your bank account to automatically send your donations to your favorite charities each month. For example, instead of writing one $500 check in December to the Humane Society, consider setting up your bank account to send them $41.67 each month.

2.   A LITTLE PLANNING—Make it a New Year’s Day tradition to sit down with your family and plan out your family’s charitable gifts for the year. This will not only help shape a roadmap for your giving throughout the year and prevent the end-of-year giving frenzy, but it will also teach your children the importance of thoughtful, consistent charitable giving. You will be shaping the next generation of philanthropists with their involvement and participation.

3.   CLUBS AND ASSOCIATIONS—If you are a member of a club or association that raises money for community causes, consider making a motion to have the gift be delivered at the beginning of the year, as opposed to other times.

4.   THE TIMING OF FUNDRAISERS—If you are a volunteer with a church or nonprofit organization, sit down with the executive director and help them schedule fundraisers throughout the year to help keep a steady stream of donations coming in.

I want to be clear. I am not suggesting you stop or reduce your end-of-year charitable giving practices. I just want to encourage you to be mindful and remember the nonprofits of the world in January, February, and March—when their donations drop.

By changing our giving practices a bit, we can ensure the charities that care for so many, stay healthy all year long.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.