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Perhaps I’m just too finicky, but if I’m going to be successful at a New Year’s goal, I have to start January 1. I have a theory that many other people share this same mentality, which contributes to the staggering number of goal failures we see by the end of the month.

It’s silly, of course. Self-improvement is an ongoing process. We imagine a future, better self and we start taking steps in that direction. That can happen any time. In fact, improving our charitable giving habits can happen right now.

The Challenge

Here’s my New Year’s challenge to you: can you give away 3% of your income for the next three months?

Why three months? One of my favorite podcasters, Michael Hyatt, makes a compelling case for what he calls a 3×3 Goal Achievement Strategy. That starts with breaking down your annual goals into chunks, starting with quarterly goals. As he says, “…limit your focus to multiply your achievement.”

Maybe you’ll decide not to keep this up for the whole year, or that seems daunting (2020 taught us how quickly things can change). But you can do it for three months!

And why 3%? The average percentage of Americans personal charitable giving by has been stuck at 2% of income for decades. It just won’t budge, no matter what.

Let’s do better – 50% better than average. We all love being above average, right? You decide if “3%” means gross income or your bring-home pay or post-mortgage money. The important thing is to commit to an amount.

What Do I Do With This Money?

This is important: that money you set aside cannot just sit in your checking account! If it lives in the same bucket as your regular spending money, you’ll be charitably treating yourself to an extra latte and a subscription to the newest Streaming+ service.

Instead, automate that money out of your checking account as soon as it hits. You can probably open a savings account with your existing bank, or you can look at an online bank like Ally, Capital One 360, or Wealthfront that makes it easy to set up a quick savings account.

Those savings accounts all offer some way to make automatic, recurring deposits. Set up one that shuffles that cash over the day after your paycheck lands. Even easier – your company may let you send 3% of each paycheck to a second account, so it never even goes into your main checking account.

Already have a donor-advised fund set up to be your charitable savings account? Set your recurring gift to go there so that the gift immediately gets locked in for charity – and is also immediately tax-deductible. (Click here to get one set up today.)

Perhaps you were fortunate enough to get a raise for 2021. If so, your January paychecks have a few extra dollars in it. Get your charitable savings account set up now before you succumb to lifestyle inflation. Or, to spin it a different way, make philanthropy your lifestyle inflation! The key is avoid seeing the money sitting there.

Start the Habit and Commit

Habits unlock lifestyle change. Once you have that recurring transfer set up, the habit of building up a charitable nest egg takes zero effort – the best kind of habit!

This one has a terrific reward at the end. Three months from now, you will have a few hundred – maybe even a few thousand – dollars stored up. Don’t worry about where it will go yet. We’ll get to that in future quarterly challenges. For now, just start building the saving muscle. That will allow us to flex that giving muscle later on.

Ready to join the 3% Challenge? Commit to it below! As Daniel Pink says, “A public commitment is like being watched. You don’t want to lose face or look bad.”

When you fill out the form below, you’re raising your hand and saying you are ready to set aside 3% for charitable giving for at least the next three months. That said, I’m a strong believer that giving is a private thing. We won’t throw your name on a billboard or even a webpage. You’ll simply hear from us at DonorsTrust as we encourage you along.

Do it! Commit yourself to building that charitable giving habit. Say you’re in by filling out the form below. We will immediately follow up with a step-by-step process for automatically setting up your charitable savings.

Make 2021 an above-average year by being an above-average giver. Make your commitment to growing your charitable savings and increasing the your philanthropy.

Peter Lipsett

Author Peter Lipsett

Peter Lipsett is vice president at DonorsTrust. He also leads DonorsTrust’s Novus Society, a network of donors under 40 committed to growing their philanthropic know-how. He has a dual degree in political science and theater from Davidson College and finally got a practical credential with an MBA from George Mason University.

More posts by Peter Lipsett