Tips for when to give, when to walk away, and how to feel good either way

Two articles on charitable giving were waiting in my in-box when I turned on my computer this morning. One provided 4 tips for how to say no to charity pleas of the season “without being a Scrooge.” The other cited “5 ways to maximize your happiness when giving.” Interestingly, although the starting points for the articles were poles apart, there was considerable overlap in the pointers provided to would-be or would-not donors.

a_choice_to_make_500_clr_14243Whether you’re feeling inundated by charity pleas or are eager to add another good cause or two to your list, the following strategies are worth considering.


Give to organizations that connect with your heart. This time of year, it’s tough to get in and out of almost any store without being asked to donate to this or that. Mostly these are good causes, but not necessarily near and dear to your heart. Instead of begrudgingly tossing a dollar at the salesperson-turned-fundraiser, the article about “no” suggests it’s okay to decline the invitation(a), focusing instead on “causes close to your heart. “

As the author of the happiness article notes, “When your donation is going to something more concrete and tangible it combats a sense of futility (Will my donation even make a difference?) and makes you feel like you are making a more direct impact.”

Give within your means and by various means. It’s possible to say “no” when asked for cash, but still say “yes” to the cause. There’s time. There’s talent. And there’s stuff. “You may be able to help out by donating goods or clothes to your local Salvation Army or to your house of worship.”

Give often, even if it’s in small amounts. In fact, if you want to get the most joy from your giving, spread your money around. Or so advises the happiness folks. “Maximize your happiness by giving more often, in smaller amounts to support more causes and projects.”

Give to organizations that you know you can trust. Most requests for funds come from reputable organizations, but there is the occasional shyster. So do what the wisest givers do. “When in doubt, ask the charity to send you information in the mail so you can review it when you’re not feeling pressured to make a decision.” If you don’t like what you see, just say “no” without regret.

Give in public ways. I love this advice from the happiness article, so I had to include it on the list. “Letting your giving be made public or sharing it yourself has the benefit of encouraging others to give by letting them know they are not alone (and providing some friendly social competition). . . So let your information go on honor rolls, share your donation on Facebook, and don’t be afraid to call out your colleagues.”

Being generous doesn’t necessarily mean saying “yes” to every request that comes along. In fact, as the “It’s OK to Say ‘No!’” article makes clear, sometimes the more generous response is a gracious pass. That said, “giving to others . . . makes us happier people which in turn leads us to give more which makes us even happier and… you get the picture. So as we enter the giving (and consumer) season, think about how you can give more in better ways to maximize your happiness.”

After all, generous matters – at Christmas and all year round.

Articles quoted:

It’s OK to Say ‘NO!’

Want to Be Happier? Give More. Give Better.


  1. My wife and I never give over the phone. We rarely make a commitment over the phone, and then only to organizations that we know very well. We still mail our gifts. It is amazing how many cold callers hang up when you ask them to send information and tell them you will make your decision when you see the info. It makes you think, what are they hiding? I can’t count the number of times I have said, “What part of ‘I don’t make a commitment over the phone, don’t you understand?'” Many times they come back with, “It’s not a commitment. It’s just an indication.” I respond by saying that “My word means something to me. If I think it’s a pledge, then it is a pledge.”

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