THE BLOG
12/17/2012 03:21 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2013

Are You a Proactive Giver, or a Reactionary Giver?

The holiday season has increasingly taken on an air of unbridled consumerism. Holiday spending by consumers during this period is often used by economists as a barometer on the health of our economy. Consumer spending rather than religious reflection appears to be the modern epoch's motivation for the festive holiday break. The metamorphosis of the holy season to the holiday of consumerism involves more than just spending habits. A closer examination of year-end giving patterns provides a compelling discussion around philanthropy and consumer spending.

Whether we are motivated by religious impulse or other factors, Americans give most during the festive holiday season. This leads me to conclude that we are at our core a charitable and generous nation.

Often in the scope of our charitable giving, wallets are opened and dollars are given as a reactionary response to a tragedy, national disaster, or holiday plea.

I am certainly not dismissing the generosity that is a leading characteristic of our nation; Americans are ranked as some of the top givers in the entire world. This is a true benchmark upon which Americans should pride themselves for their incredible dedication to improving our standard of living on the domestic and international front.

However, I do believe that giving, in the form of proactive decision-making, is an incredible way to make a difference for a nonprofit and for society.

What if we engaged in a proactive giving mindset?

When one takes the time to evaluate what nonprofit or cause they would like to give to, and the difference their donation will make, and why they should become dedicated to a select few charities, I believe that the act of giving as well as its outcome is even more powerful.

I would urge everyone this holiday season to stop and reflect on these key points:

What nonprofits or causes resonate with your priorities and personal interests?

By reflecting upon this question and proactively choosing a cause, a potential donation will have a greater effect on both the giver and the receiver. In addition, your gift is also not just one of "need"; instead, it is a gift that resonates with your personal beliefs and values.

When we identify which nonprofits are performing the type of work or services that we relate to, it ensures that our donation is going to an effective operation.

Give to a charity that resonates with you personally! Your donation will be more substantial and you are more likely to forge a better relationship with the receiver. This sustainable model of giving will translate into a more invested donor who truly supports the cause.

By giving to a particular nonprofit, what difference is your money making?

This is a key reflection point -- it will better inform not only your choice in nonprofit donation, but also how much of a difference your donation will effectively make. In order to educate yourself about the impact of your dollar, research the nonprofit in which you are interested. A nonprofit's financial records are an excellent way to inform a potential donor on just how effective it is.

One excellent resource is Charity Navigator, which rates thousands of charities based on their Financial Health and Transparency and Accountability. These factors exemplify a charity's ability to support its programming, efficiently and responsibly distribute its funds and its long-term sustainability, to ensure your donation will go a long way.

Why should I become a lifelong giver to a select few charities and give on a proactive, continual basis?

Our financial advisors and money managers would tell us to diversify our portfolios and investments. When it comes to nonprofit giving, it would be wise to invest in the opposite fashion.

Once you've identified a charity that resonates with your personal values, and passes your financial effectiveness exam, a proactive donation is the next step. And, this should not be a one-time donation. Instead, to truly make a proactive and lasting impact, your donation should be an established occurrence.

Your focused giving strategy will eliminate those unwanted solicitations from other organizations. It will increase your impact on your chosen charity's ability to make real and lasting change through their programs and services, supported by you. Charities depend on the proactive, long-term, educated donor who will work with them and invest in them to ensure success in the years to come.

After reflecting on these key points laid above, find the charity or nonprofit which resonates with your personal mission. Research that charity to ensure its loyalty to you and your dollar. Then, become loyal to it by giving on an engaged basis. This is an excellent, proactive strategy to giving.

Your dollar will make an incredible impact this holiday and throughout the year when approached with thought and care.

To learn more about the charities on Charity Navigator, and to learn about Rebuilding Together's rating, go to www.charitynavigator.org

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