Easy Ways To Give Back This Holiday Season, So Now You Have No Excuse

by Jake Coburn

Since I moved to New York, I've been able to meet a lot of cool people who are doing great things.

Sure, I occasionally run into some celebrities and brag about the encounter to my friends later on.

But run-ins with celebs aren't the only cool encounters I've had.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dan Ratner, an entrepreneur, tech guru, father of twin toddlers and genuinely nice guy who is doing amazing things to help others.

He and his family are based out of Chicago, took in a Syrian refugee family and helped them start a business.

A couple of years ago, Dan co-founded this website called, which lists every nonprofit that's a 501c3 — those are the ones that are tax-exempt and you can get tax deductions by donating to them — and allows you to search for the nonprofits associated with your interests.

For example, if you hate seeing animals suffer in the local shelters and being put down (cue the Sarah McLachlan music), you can search for animal shelters, and it will give you every nonprofit in your area that's working for animal rights.

Instead of allowing me to step blindly into the donation ring or shun it completely, Dan gave me some things to consider before heading into the gauntlet of charity solicitations.

His advice is definitely great to consider as we come into the holiday season.

Give locally. 

There are almost certainly organizations in your community working on a cause you care about.

Since they are close to home, you are able to see their work and talk to them directly.

Get involved beyond giving.

Most organizations are also looking for volunteers, board members or community advocates.

Give more support — and longer support — to fewer organizations.

A check for $100 to a single organization can be more valuable than five checks of $20 to various charities.

It's especially helpful if you are willing to commit to giving the same amount annually for a few years.

It not only keeps processing costs down, but helps organizations forecast and staff appropriately.

If you are thinking about giving, talk to a friend who knows something about the cause.

You'll not only get advice from someone who knows you, but it's something new to bond over and talk about.

They'll have a good insight about the cause, how it'll work for you and vice versa.

It's absolutely OK to give with your heart while staying align with your values.

Any giving is good giving.

Efficiency is less important than going out and making a difference. You have to start somewhere.

Worry about whether you're in the race at all before you worry about shaving seconds off your time.

Don't look at overhead or mechanism of giving (check, cash, credit card) very hard.

Overhead is a fairly inaccurate indicator of nonprofit performance.

It looks cheaper to use a check or ACH (no credit card fees), but someone needs to submit and reconcile the payment so it's often just as expensive or even more so.

Once you decide to give, just do it. The worst thing is to wait.

Don't over-rely on ratings sites.

For the most part, rating sites' processes rely on measuring overhead or some other generic financial model that may not be appropriate.

You can use it as a reference, but don't make your decision based solely on a ratings site.

Spread the word.

People often fear that talking about charitable giving is “humble bragging.”

The reality is that spreading the word about why you gave and to whom you gave makes a world of difference. It helps the organization meet new people and there are ways to do it without being preachy.