Ask Amber: How to stretch your donation dollars

By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting

Studies such as The Next Generation of American Giving, by Convio suggest that young professionals (Generations X and Y) have the potential to be very committed donors. While many young professionals are already giving to nonprofits, according to the study, their donations are typically smaller than other generations. However, the small donation size might not reflect a lack of commitment to the organization but instead the stretched budgets of many young professionals. If you are looking to stretch your donation dollars without breaking the bank, here are some suggestions for you:

Give monthly

Making manageable, monthly donations rather than a large lump sum will hopefully eliminate the feeling of financial burden. By using the idea of giving up something small to contribute to something big (e.g., cutting out a couple designer coffees to feed a hungry child) you can create a monthly giving budget you are very comfortable with. Community Shares of Colorado says that with an average donation of only $1 a day their nonprofit partners can continue their incredible work such as providing grief counseling to children and protecting open spaces. Community Shares even runs a workplace giving program, which allows participants to make regular donations to the charities of their choice straight from their paycheck, making it even easier to schedule and budget charitable donations. Ask your employer if your organization participates in a workplace giving program and if they have a brochure or other information about it. I have heard from some of our clients at JVA that consistent donations (even in very modest amounts) are greatly appreciated and demonstrate an ongoing support of the work the organization does.

Organize a giving competition

Find a sponsor (potentially your employer, church, school, family or yourself if you are comfortable) and orchestrate a competition within an organization to give the most money. You can create random teams, go by department or through a class and offer a prize (pizza party, jeans day at work or, even better, a matched donation) for the team that raises the most money. You can all raise money for the same cause or each team can choose their own so more nonprofits benefit. The lesson here is that when you get creative and invite others to contribute with you, your donation grows.


Whether you grab a group of friends and give a day of service, or you commit to volunteering regularly on your own, your time is money. According to Independent Sector, in 2011 the value of a volunteer’s time equaled $21.79 per hour! If you want to give more but cannot afford to increase your dollar amount, increase your volunteer time. Not only will you be contributing to a worthy cause, you will see firsthand where your dollars go when you donate by participating in the good things that organization does.

Donate items you already have

I can personally say that I have gone overboard when shopping before, stocking up on notebooks or bottles of shampoo when they were on sale. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, why not donate these items to a local nonprofit? You may see the duplicate items as clutter, but someone else might be in need of those items. Gather up unused school/office supplies, toiletries, dishes or whatever else you have too much of, and find someplace to donate them. If you only have a few items, make the trip worthwhile by asking your friends, family and coworkers to gather excess items and offer to drop them off at a donation site. Chances are they too have been meaning to do some spring cleaning and will be grateful for your help. A note of warning: Only drop off items at an organization such as the Salvation Army that you know will take them, or after confirming with a nonprofit that your specific items are needed. Not all nonprofits want or need the items you have, and you could inadvertently make more work for the staff if they can’t readily use your donation.

Donations, large and small, are always appreciated by small nonprofits. No matter what your income level, there are always more ways to give and as a bonus, many of the suggestions above can be fun! If you have creative ways to make your donations go further, share them with your peers by posting in the comments section below.

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1 Response to Ask Amber: How to stretch your donation dollars

  1. Great tips! Also look for networks of young professionals that fundraise together for a common goal. I’m part of the Young Ambassadors for Opportunity Denver chapter – and I love that the monthly “dues” ($12) all go to pay for a $144 yearly microfinance loan to women in Tanzania! Everyone can afford a small donation like this a month! Plus you have the benefit of meeting other professionals with similar passions!

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