Supporting the good works of nonprofits is a noble thing. You may already have a tradition of writing checks to your religious institution, your alma mater (or your kids'), a favorite health or social cause. You might have helped at bake sales, participated in every “a-thon” imaginable, dropped off canned goods at the local food pantry, shipped clothing to disaster victims around the globe, coached Little League, tutored slow learners, delivered meals to shut-ins, and generally modeled yourself after Mother Teresa. Good for you! Good for your community.
Hopefully you will continue your tradition of “giving back” in your third age. Before you segue into full-time retirement, you might want to do some reflecting on your personal history of how and why you have supported various charitable causes. Reflect on these questions to understand what motivates you:
Has someone close to you been affected by a particular health problem?
Do you want to support your friends' favorite charities? Would you want to without their connection?
Do you feel an allegiance to your family's educational institutions?
Do you want to support particular cultural institutions?
Are you passionate about advancing a social agenda?
The two major ways you have, and would presumably continue, to support charities are to give your money or to give your time. The big difference in retirement may be that you have to be more discerning about where you put your resources — of both time and money. Now would be an excellent time for you to do an inventory of how and where you are distributing these resources. You probably have a figure on your tax return for allowable contributions. But how about the dollar bills you toss in the Salvation Army kettle during holiday time? How many boxes of Girl Scout cookies, bars of chocolate for the local high school band, or light bulbs for the blind have you bought?
If you volunteer for certain charities, even serving on committees of parent teacher organizations, you probably have provided hospitality in the form of food and beverage that has come out of your pocket. No one is questioning your happiness in assuming these financial obligations. The task for you now is to take a full inventory of every single place you give time and or money throughout the year. As part of this exercise, think about whether you would prefer to continue sprinkling your time and dollars throughout the community, or begin to focus on topics held more closely to your own heart.
Be aware — when you ask friends, family, or coworkers to help your fundraising efforts, you are in effect giving them the right to ask you for similar support later for their favorite cause. If you are not willing to reciprocate, don't ask for help. You may be better off just writing a bigger check to your favorite cause.
If you are nice about it and explain your thinking, you can graciously decline to participate in other fundraisers, explaining you have decided to concentrate your charity dollars in one or two places.
It may seem that you can separate the time you give from the money you give to charity. In many cases, however, there is an unwritten expectation that volunteers will be backing their service commitment with some money. Try to explore this nuanced expectation before making an inadvertent blunder trying to be nice by giving your time to a place that also thinks it will be getting some financial contribution.