The joy of giving

The executive director of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center offers some tips for the season.

David Heitstuman is the executive director of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center.

With the holiday season upon us, many find themselves wanting to donate to a cause that is important to us. This act of kindness inherently makes us feel good. Studies show that doing good for others creates a reward or pleasure response in the brain, meaning, you feel good when you do good! Here are five ways that you can capitalize on this “feel good” feeling:

1. How can you keep this feeling going year-round?

Connect with the cause. Many nonprofits will allow you to select what program you’d like your money to support or provide volunteer opportunities to see your donation in action. For example, the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, where I work, helps restore dignity to the days of hundreds of youth experiencing homelessness by offering hot showers, food, clothing and laundry services at its Drop-in Center. Buying an extra pair of socks to drop off or volunteering to help stuff survival backpacks can help you continue to feel connected to the work.

2. You don’t have to be rich

People often believe you have to make one big donation to have a real impact. The reality is that small, monthly donations of $10, $20 or $30 make a big difference. Nonprofits have monthly expenses that fuel their programs just like we do—internet service, copy paper, insurance, maintenance, etc. Being able to count on a steady stream of monthly donations from folks who are invested for the long haul allows them focus on the core mission, better train staff and volunteers, educate the public and plan for the future rather than worry about where their next fundraising dollar is coming from.

3. More bang for your buck

Many organizations run campaigns where an individual or corporate partner offers to match every dollar they raise. Whether you are able to give $10, $100 or $1,000, when your donation is going to be matched, it helps them purchase double the food and clothing for homeless clients, teaches twice as many youth to be self-advocates, and helps prevent twice as many new HIV infections. Giving generously helps them stretch each dollar that much further to provide services year-round.

4. Share the love

Some people feel more comfortable giving anonymously, but many of us are proud to support causes we love. Social media provides an opportunity for instant positive reinforcement and praise from folks who like, comment and share the story of why we got involved or made a donation. It also encourages others to do the same. Facebook will even let you set up a fundraiser through your personal profile for the nonprofit of your choice. The money your friends, family and colleagues donate goes safely and securely directly to the charity.

5. Be an ambassador

When you share a personal connection to a cause and understand exactly where your donation is needed most, it opens the conversation with friends and family to engage. You can use a birthday, anniversary or holiday party at your home as an opportunity to ask guests to join you in support of a cause you care about by bringing coats, toys or gift cards to donate to a local organization. Afterward, you can share photos on social media along with a donation link for those who couldn’t make it. Many nonprofits, including the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, are happy to thank you for your help on their social media channels and newsletters. It makes you feel good, makes them feel good and inspires others.

In summary, donating makes us feel good, and who doesn’t want to feel all warm and fuzzy inside all year long! Whether you can make a large contribution once a year or a smaller monthly commitment, the feeling is the same. Not only does giving give us a feeling of instant euphoria, but the real good is that you are changing the lives of people in your community that need your help.