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Give Your Time, Talents, and Song

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Making a difference takes many shapes.

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If your family is like mine, you've put off any decisions about charitable giving until the eleventh hour. This is typical.

One of every two charitable donations is given in the last quarter of the year. Online gifts are deferred even longer, with 40% made in December, and up to two-thirds of these made in the last two days of the year -- presumably to make end-of-year tax deadlines.

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, 27% of charities are running on par with funds raised last year, but just over half have watched donations fall.

I'm putting my money where I see it make a difference first-hand: my church, my child's school, the local homeless shelter, and the town food pantry.

Even if your budget doesn't allow donations of money, it's possible to make a difference by donating your time and talents. A new study by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and Volunteer Match found that 43% of Americans have volunteered in the last 12 months and 22% aim to network while giving their time.

My daughter and I will be singing as usual at the local hospital. I also invested my time this year to help get a new mayor elected and to pilot a financial literacy after-school program using MinyanLand for the grade-schoolers at a charter school.

My daughter joined me in taking MinyanLand to families in Harlem through a financial wellness fair at the Hip-Hop Culture Center organized by The Children's Aid Society and Hope Leadership Academy. Through peer-to-peer instruction, teens taught other teens and members of the community the basics of budgeting and saving.

I also enjoyed presenting MinyanLand to educators in New Jersey as a winner for creative approaches to curriculum in the first-ever NJ Financial Education Idol competition sponsored by the NJ Coalition for Financial Education.

I'm blessed to have a job that lets me make a living while doing good. Tonight we'll all gather at Hill Country BBQ in Manhattan for the annual Minyanville Festivus to benefit The Ruby Peck Foundation for Children's Education.

While making your own donations this year, don't forget to check your company's policy for matching gifts. I did some research on the charitable foundations for companies in a variety of industries and found many of their matching-gifts programs remain intact.

Here are the per-employee calendar-year matches for some of them: Aetna (AET) $5,000; Avon Products (AVP) $7,500; Bank of America (BAC) $5,000; Cigna (CI) $5,000; Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) $12,500; Merck (MRK) $10,000; Microsoft (MSFT), $12,000; Pitney Bowes (PBI) $5,000; UBS (UBS) $2,500.

Here are a few other helpful resources:

Wall Street Journal Family Money columnist Karen Blumenthal on giving in tough times.

DoSomething.org, which powers off-line action by teens

Charity Navigator's Holiday Giving Guide

What's your family's approach to charitable giving this year? Post a comment below.
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