First, a Holidaze confession: On numerous occasions I’ve skipped the exit and walked out the entrance of my local supermarket just to avoid eye contact with the person jingling the bell next to the red bucket. It’s not that I’m a jerk, it’s just that I didn’t have any cash on me (you believe me right?). Or sometimes, I just have a buck or some change and I feel that it won’t really make a difference. Other times, I circumnavigate because I gave yesterday or last week.

But, the bell is always there! Ringing. Reminding me that I’m a slack-a** and that I am due a big lump of coal…right to the side of my head.

And it should keep ringing. Last year, the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign raised $144.5 million from folks dropping extra change in the bucket. Similarly, The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation received and distributed a whopping $209,265,122 worth of toys in 2017. That’s a big impact from many, many, many small contributions.

Now, the time to be charitable doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about how you choose to help others. For those with limited means to begin with, spreading the love can be downright difficult and can leave guilt replacing the supposed joy of the season. To better understand giving, we reached out to an expert with hopes of navigating the charitable holiday season.

Marcus Haile is the Chief Development Officer at Cathedral Arts Project Inc and he is also a CFRE (certified fund raising executive). He was kind enough (see, giving time counts too) to share some insight into giving.

“There are certain organizations that really count on this time of year to make or break their year.  Donors around this time of year are extremely valuable to them and gifts around this time are important. The holiday appeal is also important for donors that haven’t given yet throughout the year,” Haile says.

“There is certainly an element of psychology and the spirit of giving around the holidays. Organizations are not trying to take advantage of people, but rather they are trying to tap in to meaningful giving,” Haile says. “A donor that gives during this time of year is just as important as a donor that gives at any time of year. It doesn’t have to be solely about the holidays. The gift or donation is the important part.”

If you feel your heartstrings being pulled in directions that your wallet can’t follow or that there are more demands for your funds than you can actually provide, Haile encourages all to be smart and do a little research about organizational impact. Most of this information is available online and can help you choose where you as an individual can best apply your funds. “You really want to see what they (organizations) are doing with the money that you are giving,” Haile says.

“The biggest point for any donor giving around this time of year is to never discount the amount that they are giving. You hear it all the time, but literally every bit helps. Small contributions really add up for organizations,” Haile says. “I want to encourage people to remember that and feel good about it. Even if you’re only able to do a little bit, it really means a lot to an organization.”