Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Our Giving

How to make donations go fatherThere are three things you can do with money: Spend it, save it, and give it. We spend a lot of time learning how to save and spend wisely, but how much of our attention is given to getting the most out of our giving? Here are three suggestions for getting the most out of our giving while still maintaining our spirit of generosity.

Give directly to the source (the one you want to help)

Giving doesn’t have to pass through a 501(c)3, a government program, or clothes donation facility. Sometimes the best gifts are giving directly to the source.

One of the best gifts we ever gave was to longtime friend of my wife. She had just gone through a divorce. Her husband took the kids, the house, left her without a place to live and without an income (she hadn’t worked in over 10 years while raising their three boys). She needed help.

As luck would have it (or was it the Lord’s intervention???) we were able to take a detour while visiting family out of state. My wife called to tell her we would be in town and should take the opportunity to have lunch together. As they were reminiscing about old times and crying over the hardships she was going through, my wife slid an envelope containing a small stack of Benjamins across the smooth surface of the table.

We certainly got the most out of our giving that day. Not only did our cash gift forgo any overhead expenses (even non-profits have to pay a light bill) but my wife was able to see the joy in her friend’s face. The amount of hope that little white envelope bought was priceless!

Attend Fundraisers

Entertainment is one of the tightest categories for people in debt. Why not kill two birds with one stone by taking part of a local fundraiser?

My wife and I attended a local Trivia Night in November. There were so many reasons to say “Yes” that we just couldn’t say no:

  • Our friends asked us to join them (yay friends!)
  • We let our daughter stay with a friend (date night!)
  • There was food, trivia, and free beverages (and a big bowl of M&Ms – yum)
  • Creative gift baskets were offered in a silent auction (could become good Christmas gifts)
  • All the money went towards school band uniforms and cheerleading costumes (bonus!)

The entire evening cost us $100 but we got so much value for our dollar. We had a fantastic evening and were able to help a good cause at the same time.

Donate cash, not cans

I don’t want to discourage anyone from giving food to the local food pantry but donating cash can go a lot farther.

My church is home for the local food pantry. Each month people are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to fill the shelves. I’m amazed that we easily collect enough canned goods to feed 140 families a month.

But the help doesn’t stop with just canned goods and boxes of cereal. We also provide dairy products and meat – things that wouldn’t last very long in a donation bin. These types of thing take cash, and giving cash to a church goes farther than giving cans.

Let’s use the example of 20 cans of corn at 69 cents each. This thoughtful donation would cost you $14.90 ($13.80 plus $1.10 tax).

That’s wonderful, but to get the most out of our giving I have learned that it is better to give money instead. Here’s why:

  • The church gets the benefit of purchasing items they don’t have in their donation bin

  • We get to write off $14.90 when we itemize (saving about $2.98 in income taxes)

  • Churches are allowed to purchase items without paying sales tax. This means they could buy 21 cans of corn and still have 41 cents left over

It’s the perfect Giving Trifecta: The church wins, we win, and those who need help from a food pantry win. Now THAT’S getting the most out of our giving!

Giving can be the most fun you can have with money. It takes the attention off ourselves and puts it on others. Consider giving more than the obligatory birthday gifts or Christmas presents, think about how giving can impact the lives of others who just need a little boost. It took me a while to learn how to give, and using these tips have allowed us to get the most out of our giving.


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  • Great post Steve, people don’t talk enough about giving back. I want my freedom and retirement to come sooner so that I can give more with my time and money. I give about 4 times a year to the charities im passionate about.

    • Steve Stewart

      Reply Reply May 21, 2014

      Cool! What are some of the charities you are giving to?

      Other than tithing we sponsor a girl in India and give to a large animal rescue ranch. It’s not enough but more than we were a few years ago.

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