In every place around the world regardless of religious tradition, culture and language, giving to others has always been an idea encouraged for thousands of years. From Lao Tzu to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Prophet Mohammed to St. Thomas Aquinas, the importance of giving to others has been written and spoken about extensively.

Yet, despite the long history of giving, many people today do not donate to any cause for various reasons. It may be that they are unsure how to navigate the vast array of organizations and causes, or that they are hesitant about how their money will be used, or simply they don’t realize what benefit it has on others.

As Aristotle said:

“To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.”

Giving is easy, but why and where to give are difficult questions to answer. Listed below are five great reasons why people should give to charity. Deciding where and how much is a personal decision, but there is not much to argue with when it comes to why. In fact, with Americans donating $335.17 billion in 2013 there seems to be some very good reasons for donating.

1. Sense of Purpose

Giving to charity helps you participate in a cause you feel strongly about. Even if you don’t have the time to volunteer, charitable gifts go a long way in helping organizations operate and impact those they help.

In addition, studies show that people who give to charity are happier people. So when faced with the decision of whether to buy an unneeded new pair of shoes or donate that money to a cause, choose the cause. You may not get new shoes, but you’ll be much happier in the long run.

2. You can make a difference

While it may seem that a small donation won’t make a big difference, however even small gifts can have a big impact.

For instance, through programs like Kiva, a nonprofit micro-lender, individuals can loan as little as $25 to help impoverished, would-be entrepreneurs in the developing world start a small business. Many of these people do not have access to a strong banking sector so these loans provide are a great method of empowerment.

To date Kiva has had 860,000 individual lenders participate and has a 99 percent loan payback rate.

3. Donations are often tax-deductible

Giving to money to most charitable organizations has the added benefit of being tax deductible. There are approximately 1, 536,084 charitable organizations in the U.S. according to 2013 data, which means that are plenty of places for people to give.

What does this mean in concrete terms? If someone were to give $100 to a tax-exempt organization of their choice, the donation may actually only turn out to be $65 or less due to tax refunds. The donation not only benefits the organization, but also the individual giving.

4. Matching Gifts can have a big impact

A great way to give to charity is to find an organization or corporation that will do a matching gift. Matching gifts are when a company will match dollar-for-dollar what their employee gives; maximizing the impact of the gift as well as creating a positive image for the company.

Corporations like General Electric, Gap Inc., Boeing, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft all offer some of the best employee matching gift programs.

5. Create a budget, plan ahead

Whether its $25 or $2500, donations are possible from every budget. Plan a charity budget that allows for a donation each year. Even two percent of your yearly income can make a big difference. For someone making $30,000, that could be around $500 – all of which can be deductible!

Before giving to charity, be sure to do research. Numerous websites exist to help potential donors find out what organizations are most legitimate and what cause they think could benefit most. Like all things in life, research will not only make potential donors better informed, but will also maximize the impact for each donation.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

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