THE BLOG
12/01/2014 12:38 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2015

What Will You Do for Giving Tuesday?

Dear Readers,

There's a new date to put on your holiday calendar -- Giving Tuesday, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Introduced in 2012 as an international day of charitable giving, the idea behind Giving Tuesday is to channel some of the spending energy that flows around Black Friday and Cyber Monday into giving energy.

I'm a fan, because I believe that charitable giving can be an important part of just about everyone's life. And it's not just about giving money; it's about having the commitment to help others -- no matter your age or resources. But to turn this idea into reality, we all have to take action. Here are some Giving Tuesday ideas to help you make your own contribution this year.

Put your passions into play
With so many worthy causes out there, choosing which charities to support can be the first big challenge. So start with what's important to you. Are you passionate about the arts? The environment? Education? Has a specific organization made a difference in your life or the life of a loved one? Here's a chance to give back and make positive change.

You might also look to your own community. Whether it's a local food bank, a scholarship fund for a neighborhood school, or a struggling homeless shelter, making a financial contribution that will not only benefit a cause you believe in but also have a local impact can give your donation extra meaning.

Be strategic
Most folks can't give to every organization they'd like to support, or necessarily make a big donation all at once. To narrow down your personal list of favorite charities, first think about where your donations will make the most difference, then choose the top three. You may want to do a little extra research by comparing charities at an independent online rating service such as charitynavigator.org or charitywatch.org.

Once you've made your choices, decide on a dollar amount you can afford and apportion that money accordingly. You don't have to give the same amount to each charity nor do you have to give all the money at the same time. For instance, you could consider making an ongoing donation over a specified time period rather than a one-time contribution.

Get involved
Giving isn't only about money. It can also be about time and expertise. For instance, I know many retirees who regularly contribute their time to elementary school reading programs, senior centers, or neighborhood outreach services. Others with computer knowledge or accounting experience or writing skills have found groups and organizations in need of their specific know-how.

From serving meals at your church to delivering library books to the homebound, there are myriad ways to get involved either on a one-time or ongoing basis -- and there are countless organizations that need volunteers to accomplish their goals.

Make it a family affair
Whether you're giving money or time, including your children can make your dollars and your energy go even farther. Consider picking a family charity and having your children contribute a bit of their allowance each week. This could be a yearlong family project with the goal of making a contribution next Giving Tuesday.

You could also get your kids involved in a project with a local nonprofit organization, such as an animal shelter or food bank.

Consider a Charitable Gift Account for easy, tax-smart giving
If you want to make charitable giving an ongoing part of your financial plan, in my mind there's no better way than a Charitable Gift Account (also known as a donor-advised fund). You can open one with a tax-deductible contribution of as little as $5,000 and then use the funds to make grants to any public charity over the course of years. (And if you donate appreciated stock, you not only get a tax deduction but also avoid having to pay capital gains taxes.) You can then make additional $100 minimum tax-deductible contributions as you choose.

The documentation and record-keeping are generally taken care of for you; you have easy online access and can even recommend grants online; and you'll have a complete history of your giving. Plus, you can invest your money in the meantime, potentially increasing your ability to give.

Make Giving Tuesday a new holiday tradition
The excitement -- and potential -- of Giving Tuesday is catching on not only in the U.S. but also around the world. And many corporations are starting their own initiatives and gift-matching programs to encourage their employees to redefine the gift-giving season. Whether your own charitable giving is a once-a-year event or you have the means to share your good fortune year-round, I hope you'll make Giving Tuesday a part of your personal holiday tradition. To me, it's a spirit of generosity that can enrich us all.

Looking for answers to your retirement questions? Check out Carrie's new book, "The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty: Answers to Your Most Important Money Questions."

This article originally appeared on Schwab.com. You can e-mail Carrie at askcarrie@schwab.com, or click here for additional Ask Carrie columns. This column is no substitute for an individualized recommendation, tax, legal or personalized investment advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CHARLES SCHWAB & CO., INC. MEMBER SIPC. (1114-7419)

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