We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. -Winston Churchill

As the holiday season approaches, hearts and minds turn to supporting those less fortunate. That need to give is often heightened by the inevitable flood of year-end charity appeals.

If you’re not sure where to begin, and want to make the biggest impact, consider meaningful giving, which is guided by relevance and creativity. It benefits donors and charities alike and delivers higher levels of happiness and emotional rewards to the giver.

In fact, many studies indicate that donors and volunteers are happier and healthier than those who don’t give.

How to turn meaningful giving into action.

To transform the intention to give into reality, follow this simple formula: Relevance + Creativity + Giving = Won. This comes from Peter Weedfald, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sharp Electronics, an avid practitioner of meaningful giving.

  • Relevance: Look for causes that have missions that resonate with you.
  • Creativity: You can be creative in choosing an organization that best reflects your values, and by funding innovative endeavors.
  • Won: Giving that’s a win both for the charities you choose and for you.

When it came to fulfilling the creative component of his formula, Weedfald was inspired by the sight of a hot air balloon featuring a colorful design of three mammoth Australian Gouldian finches.

The balloon was flown across the country to children’s hospitals on behalf of the Starlight Children’s Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House. Youngsters who were well enough were given balloon rides; others were entertained by costumed gold finches and given coloring books and crayons.

“This creativity surpassed anything that I had seen,” says Weedfald, who supported the effort. “The response was tremendous. We raised nearly a million dollars for the two charities and provided lifelong, happy memories for hundreds of children.”

Meaningful giving with maximum benefit.

You can be as meaningful as you want, but, ideally, you want to see as many positive outcomes as possible as a result of your giving.

Be sure to conduct research into your targeted non-profits. Charity Navigator and Guidestar provide information about the almost one million US non-profit groups registered with the Internal Revenue Service.

You can learn such details as how much of the money you donate goes to program expenses, administration. and fundraising, as well as financial health and ability to sustain services and grow. And to supercharge your impact, look at what an organization spends and compare that to what it achieves for the money. Or evaluate costs vs. societal benefits.

Don’t be afraid to think about getting the most “bang for your buck.” A successful non-profit must operate akin to any other business. A lack of business acumen is a red flag.

Finally, don’t restrict your giving to the holidays. Consider donating year-round, because most recipients are in need on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. “Meaningful giving fuels the dignity of hope, prosperity, security, and healthy living for those we care about,” says Weedfald. “The result is a stronger, more secure society.”

Originally published on Ellevate.

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