Many of us want to give to charity, for a variety of reasons. First, we, in the United States, have always supported charities, and continue to do so to this day. Second, quite frankly, giving to charity makes us feel good, that we are indeed helping those who need help. Third, those who give to charity get financially rewarded in the future; not as a direct return on the charity, but they seem to have good fortune when it comes to riches. So the question arises, how can I put charity into the budget?
Treat as an Expense
The first thing to realize is that charity should be categorized as an expense. Giving to charity is a worthwhile expense, but an expense none the less. There is a strong historical underpinning of giving about 10% of your income to charity. The Catholic Church, during medieval times, called this giving "tithing," and the church recommended that believers give 1 out of 10 to the church. This tradition has continued, and so 10% becomes a good working figure for those who are putting charity into their budget.
Once a person has decided to give to charity, how should they do it? There are several ways, each with its own benefits and liabilities.
First, a person can give money directly to a charity. This is, perhaps, the easiest form of charity to give. Charitable giving can even be deducted from a person's paycheck in many cases, which makes the giving even easier. However, giving money does mean that you have to pick your charity wisely. Many charities spend most of their money getting money, not helping others; furthermore, we have all read the stories about corruption in charities. While there are many good charities available, a person really needs to do some homework to make sure their contributions are really helping those who need it rather than those who want it.
Second, a person can give purchased items. A little more work is involved here, since the items do indeed have to be purchased. However, a person can be assured that a charitable giving of some item is much more likely to get to the people intended; after all, who wants to embezzle a teddy bear? There are many organizations that take items, particularly during the Christmas season. Look into food pantries, toys for children in hospitals, and clothing donations to churches who run shelters. Further, there are several very reputable organizations that take items, sell them, and use the proceeds to help those who need it. Two examples are Goodwill and Salvation Army, and many communities have more.
Third, a person can give time. Many charities are desperate for volunteers, and a person can be very choosy about who gets the time. Being a volunteer can be incredibly rewarding; I was a Scoutmaster for years, and I would not trade that experience for anything. Charitable giving here is spending time helping others, not campaigning for a cause. Campaigning is also rewarding, but it does fit the meaning of charity.
The rewards of giving to charity are several. A person is very likely to receive opportunities because of charitable giving; too many people have had that happen for it to be a coincidence. A person will feel good about their actions, feeling that they have contributed. Horace Mann said "Service is the rent for living on this world." Finally, a person will grow; they meet people they would not otherwise have met, experience events otherwise unknown. This is perhaps the reward with the most potential.