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(Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
(Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

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Make charitable giving part of your financial plan Add to ...

Personal finance discussions tend to focus on saving, spending and investing. But what about giving?

The question of how much we should set aside for chairty has taken on an added significance now that many of us are worried about the economy and our jobs. Charities have been feeling the impact of the economic uncertainty for months.

Beatrice Kernan, executive director of , a non-profit that helps children with medical challenges, says the organization has seen a decline in corporate donations, particularly sponsorships for special events. However, they are still getting individual contributions.

"What has been most inspiring has been the support of private individuals, who recognize that this is a difficult economy and who want to sustain programming for children with medical challenges," says Beatrice.

Before the economic downturn, Canadians had been slowly increasing the amount they were carving out of their family budgets for charitable giving. Tax filers of more than $8.6-billion in 2007, up 1.4 per cent from 2006. (Data from 2007 and 2008 is not yet available, but could show a downturn.) Another report suggests that on average, Canadians donate 0.76 per cent of their aggregate income.

While the amount you choose to give is a very personal one, experts suggest that you should carefully plan and save for your charitable giving - as you would for any other expense.

, a website that helps organize U.S. charitable giving, a special savings account designated for charity. For Canadian charities, check out Donors can set up an account with CanadaHelps and manage their giving to Canadian charities all in one spot, including making monthly donations.

Not only will that help you establish an amount you feel comfortable giving, you can give more freely when the time comes because the cash has already been allocated.

I have to admit that in my house, we have a sporadic approach to charitable giving. We tend to make donations when organizations write or call us to request them. My husband and I both have charities which we like to support, but we don't plan, or usually even discuss, what we give.

It's a strange oversight, considering that we try to budget for all of our other household costs. We're now going to make donations a part of our financial plan.

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