Getting started with giving: How much to give?

July 23, 2019
5 min read

John Bromley

Founder & CEO

Everyone has a cause that they care about, and a change they’d like to see in the world. This desire to help others and create an impact comes naturally, but knowing how much to give does not.

I invite you to start by looking at it like this – what is the hardest part about going for a run? Well, if you are anything like me, the hardest part is putting on your running shoes, walking out the front door, and just getting started.

The same can be said for giving; the hardest part about making it a part of your lifestyle is just getting started. “Just do it”, as Nike says. 

As you start giving, it’s more important to work on establishing your own habit of giving intentionally and giving consistently. So, I recommend that you start by choosing an amount that is easy enough for you to say “yes” to. You can always increase the amount further down the line. Think about it like a charitable budget: focus on how much to give and not which causes or charities you want to support. In other words, separate “what” you are going to give from “where” to give.

How much you give is a function of the frequency of your donations (e.g. monthly or annually) and the amount your give per donation. I recommend you think about frequency and amount together. Generally, if you budget on a monthly basis, think in those terms. And if you are an annual planner, do it that way. 

Donation amount

a) Pick a number Whether it’s $20 or $100 each month. Or $500 or $10,000 each year, commit to a number you are comfortable giving away. 

b) Pick a percentage of your income to give. This method is traditional in many religions, for example, in both Christianity and Judaism, followers are taught to give 10% of their income to charity. I’m not saying you should start giving 10% of your income, but find what suits you and have a goal to strive towards.


Once you’ve picked your number or percentage, decide whether to break that amount down into regular monthly gifts or to give it as a lump sum on a date of your choosing. When you have set your approach, hold yourself accountable to meet it.

If it helps, on average, Canadians report giving about $400 per year. To be in the top 10% most generous donors in Canada, you need to give about $1,200 annually…low bar? I digress.

I know a lot of people who commit to a regular monthly donation amount and then top that amount up towards the end of the calendar year based on their feelings and financial circumstances at the time.

Once you are in a routine with your giving, then it’s at this point that you can start reflecting upon the amount, and make changes to become a better donor. Ask yourself: do you feel the amount you are giving is generous in relation to how much you earn? Do you miss the money you are giving away? Or, do you feel like it’s a good amount based on how much you own? How does the amount you give to relate to your tax situation? 

If you feel like you could give more, or that you want to give more, then challenge yourself by setting a target that is higher than you’d normally give. You’ll know what you’re comfortable with, but don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. My own rule is that if you can’t “feel” it or if you don’t “miss” the amount you are donating, you can give more.

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the amount you should give. This is especially true if you are a newer donor, or someone less experienced with committing to regular and intentional giving practices. The more you experience giving, the more clarity you will feel when it comes to what the right amount is for you. 

The great thing about giving with a donor-advised fund like Charitable Impact, is that it simplifies your giving experience, especially for intentional donors. You can easily separate the decisions related to how much to give from the decisions related to where to give (e.g. which causes or charities you’d like to support). After adding money to your Impact Account, your money will sit there safely, while you take the time and space you need to plan the impact you’d like to create.

If you’d like to start creating an impact, then Charitable Impact is here to support you, no matter what you are giving to, the amount, or the experience you have. When you set yourself a target, and you stick to it, then you’ll find yourself one step closer to creating that brighter future you imagine.