As a fundraising consultant, I try to practice what I preach, within my financial ability, when I donate to nonprofits. No doubt most of our Resources Realized readers do the same, knowing the reasons behind best practices. Many of us also volunteer our time directly to a diverse range of causes, including serving on Boards. But as we enter 2016, I invite you to stretch your giving practices in what might be some new and different ways.

  • Give More Boldly. Give more than you thought you would or could to an organization that is meaningful to you. Make a “stop and think gift”: Plan how you are going to pay it over a few credit card cycles, or think about what you will need to forgo in order to afford it.
  • Give Collectively. Consider joining a giving circle like Impact100 Philadelphia. Experience the thought process of group philanthropy and leverage the power of combining many smaller gifts to have a greater impact.
  • Give Frequently. If you already give monthly to an organization, make that same commitment to another cause. As professionals, we know the importance of that sustainer income stream and the cost savings those programs create.
  • Give Without Getting. Many organizations are working hard to encourage their constituent to make the leap from membership and other benefits-driven gifts to true philanthropic giving. Make a gift above and beyond your membership, and show the organization that their mission is as important to you as free admission and gift shop discounts.
  • Give Someone an Opportunity. If you are in a position to follow the proverb that says, “Teach a man to fish,” go out of your way to do so. Supporting organizations that help people toward financial independence is important, but I’m talking about the powerful one-on-one connection: be a mentor, give someone a second chance through employment or provide financial support to a bootstrapping entrepreneur.
  • Give Some Thought. This applies to your long-range financial plans and how philanthropy fits in to them. It’s never too soon to decide to leave a legacy. If you’re not ready to consider a bequest or establish a fund at your local community foundation, planning could be as simple as clarifying for family and friends where you would like gifts made in your honor (while you’re living too!). I am often surprised to see, when someone passes away, that the organizations designated by family to receive memorial gifts have little to do with the deceased’s personal passions.

Before the glow of the “season of giving” fades, make a commitment to carry it forward all year long. Philanthropy is the gift that keeps on giving—for the donor as much as the recipient.