prioritize-your-charitable-contributions-this-holiday-seasonWith the holiday season on the horizon, you may see an uptick in the number of requests to donate from charitable organizations. We all like to help out when we can, and the holiday season seems an especially appropriate time for many of us to show our generosity.

To help you give back while maintaining a responsible budget, it makes sense to step back and prioritize your charitable contributions during the holiday season.

Where do you think the money will do the most good?

One of the first things you should determine before giving back is where your money will do the most good.

You can find out how your contribution is likely to be used by going to CharityNavigator.org. Charity Navigator shows you how much each dollar you donate is likely to go toward helping the cause the charity supports. If you see that a large percentage of your money is likely to go toward executive pay or fundraising costs, you might want to rethink your donation.

You can also move away from national organizations and look in your local area. One of the ways I make sure my donations are supporting the community is to donate to local efforts such as the food bank or the children’s home. You can actually see your donations at work in the community, and perhaps even sit on the board and help to oversee the charity’s efforts.

Make room in your household budget for charitable giving by planning ahead

Rather than deciding on the spot, figure out which charities you will support before the holiday season begins. For example, I know that I’m going to do a “Sub for Santa” and an “Angel Tree” (programs where you can donate toys or money to provide gifts for people in need) each year, and I budget in advance for that.

In addition, I budget a certain amount for holiday collection efforts, such as the Salvation Army bell ringers or the collection tins at the local grocery store. I figure out what I want to give and get the appropriate number of bills from the bank. Then, every time I pass a collection station, I can put in a dollar until the money is gone.

As a result of planning ahead for charitable donations, I don’t have to worry about making a decision on the spot. Instead, if someone asks, I can politely say no, or I can say that I’ve already donated to various organizations for the holiday season.

Put in the time

If you don’t have the money to donate as much as you would like but you have a little extra time, you can volunteer your services. Offer to help sort and deliver items as needed. Gather donations. Dish up meals at the soup kitchen. Charities need volunteers, and you can give time even if you can’t give money.

In the end, how you give at the holidays—or any time of the year—is up to you. Create a plan, make it a part of your household budget, and stick with what truly makes you feel good about giving.

Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money as an Online Writer and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.