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Tips and information on effective giving

5 Ways to Choose How Much to Give

How much should I give? It’s a tough question. What can I afford? What should I sacrifice? There isn’t a single answer, but there are some strategies for making the decision. Here are five approaches:

1. Give what other people think you should

Ideas42, a firm that uses insights from the behavioral sciences to address complex social problems, surveyed 500 people about the average household in their neighborhood. They asked, “What percent of their total income do you think they should give to charity this year?” The average answer: 6 percent of yearly income.

They found some other interesting nuggets. Women thought their neighbors should give substantially more than men did. And those who attend a religious service thought their neighbors should give 9 percent, compared to 6 percent among those who did not attend a service.

How much do people actually give in the U.S.? On average, 3 percent of their income.

2. Let an app do the work (but maybe impose a limit)

Momentum makes automatic donations on your behalf based on moments. For example, Momentum could add 3 percent to your dinner bill to fight hunger. Momentum finds high-impact nonprofits for you to support and provides a dashboard to easily track your impact. 

So, one option to determine your giving: download Momentum, set some rules based on common events in your life and start giving based on moments in your life. If that sounds like too much, you can set a donation limit. Maybe try 6 percent of your annual income.

3. Give what you can

Perhaps the most prudent approach is to sit down, analyze your finances and pick the number that you can afford. Giving a little is better than not giving at all.

4. Follow the advice of Peter Singer and The Life You Can Save

The Life You Can Save promotes high-impact philanthropy by heavily researching nonprofits and publicizing those that meet its stringent criteria. The founder of the Life You Can Save, Peter Singer, recommends a minimum donation of 1 percent. Beyond that, he recommends your philanthropy scales with your income.

Income Level

Percentage

Income Level

Percentage

$50,000

1.7%

$250,000

7%

$75,000

2.8%

$300,000

7.5%

$125,000

5%

$400,000

8.4%

$165,000

5.5%

$500,000

9.7%

$185,000

6%

$1,000,000

14.3%

5. Give more tomorrow

Sometimes, it actually is better to put off until tomorrow. A study compared donors who were asked to give more today against those who were asked to give more in one or two months. The study found that donations increased when a donor was asked to give more later — and that these increases continued. So if you aren’t ready to give more today, consider tomorrow.

No matter how much you give, we strongly encourage you give to a nonprofit with proven impact. We’ve rated over 1,000 nonprofits based on their cost-effectiveness so that you can trust your dollars will be used wisely.