Five reasons to give to charity this holiday season

by Gefen Kusin-Kline, Special Contributor | December 19, 2018

How do you measure generosity?

According to the Giving Institute, charitable causes in the United States received over $410 billion in donations during 2017. Of that total, individuals contributed nearly 70 percent ($287 billion).

Closer to home, members of the greater D-FW community donated more than $48 million to 2,690 non-profit organizations in a single day — North Texas Giving Day, Sept. 20, 2018.

Corporations across North Texas have also been taking big strides toward giving back. Since arriving in Plano, Toyota Motor North America’s team members have been a huge help in these efforts. “Toyota has a big heart and cares about supporting this community we now call home,” says Mike Goss, General Manager of Social Innovation at Toyota. In addition to contributing to charitable causes and connecting local nonprofits with volunteers, the automaker has also been sharing their culture of innovation and thought leadership to help more services reach the people who need them.

Although there are just a few days left in 2018, there are still ample opportunities — and reasons — to be generous. Your charitable gifts, whether they consist of staples such as food and warm clothing, cash or simply your time, make our communities stronger and more prosperous. To help bolster the giving spirit, keep reading to learn five notable benefits that come with making a year-end donation.

1) Brighten the holidays for those in need.

While many of us look forward to the holidays, this time of year may not be so joyous for those who are struggling to make ends meet. Mountains of gifts paired with phenomenal feasts aren’t a reality — or even a concern — for our neighbors who don’t know where they’ll sleep for the night or what they’ll eat for dinner. By providing toys or clothes to a less fortunate family, or by donating money to provide a warm bed or a holiday meal, you’ll bring real joy and hope to the lives of your less fortunate neighbors.

Needs exist all across the Metroplex. This year, just one organization — Community Partners of Dallas — received 9,300 wish requests in conjunction with their annual toy drive. Answering that call required that both individuals and corporations step up. In response, Toyota team members banded together to collect 3,000 toys for Community Partners of Dallas as well as Hope’s Door New Beginning Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Collin County and Children’s Health.

According to Goss, these donations are a tribute to how much Toyota encourages (and rewards) volunteerism. “Three thousand kids here in the local community will have something to unwrap for Christmas, and that’s the spirit of our company,” he notes. “It’s all because we’re blessed to have a network of people across the company who make social innovation happen at the enterprise level. They’re incredibly committed — I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they spent a lot of time wrapping those gifts.”   

2) Charitable donations are the perfect way to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays.

If you’re tired of the ever-increasing commercialization of the holidays, donating is the ideal way to shake off that skepticism and reconnect with the true spirit of the holidays — gratitude, generosity and helping the less fortunate.

As a family activity, charitable giving promotes bonding, empathy and good, life-long giving habits. Consider donating in your mother’s name instead of trying to find something special for the woman who has it all. Set an example for your kids by showing empathy and compassion. Include your children when you choose what charities to support and listen to their input. Encourage them to help you pick out toys or clothing for children in need.

Finally, few gifts are as thoughtful as those that reflect the receiver’s most deeply held beliefs and values. Many nonprofits offer rewards or premiums for charitable contributions made in a friend’s or family member’s name, which means they’ll still have something to unwrap on Christmas day.

3) Philanthropic behavior feels good.

According to Dr. Stephen Post, who studies the relationship between giving and happiness, the mere thought of engaging in altruistic behavior increases our happiness. By examining brain scans, Dr. Post has discovered that thinking of charitable behavior activates the neural pathways associated with the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

4) Reap the tax benefits.

Your charitable donation is more than a gift. It is an investment. For one thing, you are contributing to the overall financial health and stability of a nonprofit organization. Moreover, framing contributions as investments also allows you to focus on the returns they produce and how they increase the public good. For most individuals, that return becomes most apparent when the time comes to file their annual federal income tax return.

Under the new tax laws, your total itemized deductions — including mortgage interest, property taxes and charitable contributions — must exceed $12,000 for individuals or $24,000 for couples. For deduction purposes, all donations must be completed by Dec. 31, 2018.

5) Help non-profits achieve their mission.

Half of all American nonprofits receive the majority of their annual donations in the last three months of the year, with about $48 billion donated each November and December. According to Jason Firch of Nonprofits Source, 30 percent of annual giving occurs in December, with a whopping 10 percent coming in during the last three days of the year. Clearly, non-profit organizations rely on end-of-year giving to deliver their much-needed services.

You can further maximize the impact of your donations through an employee giving program. For example, Toyota matches employee giving to eligible nonprofits on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Ask if your company matches donations — you could effectively double the impact of your year-end gift.

Bring 2018 to a close on a high note. Donate to one of the many hard-working nonprofits making a positive difference in D-FW. Anything you contribute will make a world of difference to those in need.

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