'tis The Season For Giving

By Anica Wong

September 20, 2012 4 min read

Whether it is in Sunday school or at home around the kitchen table, most of us learned that when we have more than what we need, we should give to those less fortunate. And for the most part, people around the U.S. do give. According to a new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Americans, on average, give 4.7 percent of their discretionary income to charity, donating more than $135 billion in 2008 (the most recent IRS tax records available for data analysis).

While the study doesn't show when most of these donations are given, Miriam Davenport of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles says that the majority of their donations come during the holiday season. "A lot of people, especially in the last few years, have opted to help others (during that time)," she says. Davenport, the senior director of development with the SPCALA, points out that there are many ways that donating to your favorite charity instead of giving gifts to your friends and family this year can benefit the organization, as well as provide a feeling of good will.

"We rely 100 percent on donations," Davenport says. "It is important to have support from our local community." The animal shelter has several ways that a person can donate. Like most organizations that take donations, the SPCALA has a donation page on their website. They even offer to send out an e-card or a mailed card to a person if you donate money in honor of them. Instead of spending money on toys and clothes that your family and friends might get little joy from, giving money to help the shelter is a win-win for everyone.

Davenport says that like other animal shelters, they also accept food, blankets, toys and other items. These objects get put to good use by the more than 3,000 animals that get adopted through SPCALA every year.

If you're not a pet person, there are many other places your generous donation can be put to good use instead of being used once and thrown away, as many Christmas presents are these days.

The Internet has made donating easier than ever. Justgive.org has simplified the process even more by pulling together more than 1.8 million charities into a single database. The cool part about the website? You can give charity gift cards. "You choose the value of the cards; your recipient chooses the charity; their charity receives a donation -- everyone wins," states the website. So instead of buying your mom another sweater, put that money on a GiveNow card, and let her pick the charity to which she'd like to donate. They even let you upload your own image to personalize your gift cards.

If you're looking to affect a single person this holiday season with your giving, consider sponsoring a child. While it can be overwhelming to think about all of the children in the world who need help, focus on making a difference here at home. According to Save the Children, one in four American kids (or 15 million children) lives in poverty. This organization offers options to sponsor a child in the United States. Your money not only supports that child, but also helps Save the Children to provide literacy, early education and nutritional programs around the country.

This year could be the year that you give back instead of just giving.

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