How Four Simple Behaviors Improved My Giving Habits

by | Jul 23, 2019

Once July 4th rolls around, I begin to anticipate another year rapidly coming to an end. The list of things I intend to accomplish this year looms larger and longer as I realize how little time is left.

Year-long giving is always on my list. It’s a habit I talk about all the time. You already know what I’m about to say:

  • Give through-out the year.
  • Be intentional. Gather information about nonprofit organizations you are interested in so that your giving decisions are informed, not reactive.
  • Make an impact. Ask questions, listen, read, collect newsletters, and articles.

As July starts to fade, I must ask myself if I’m following my own advice. Answer: not so much.

But I have an excuse!

This year has been extra busy on a personal and professional level. It’s easy to let giving slide to the background, put it off till December. Sit down amidst the bustle of the holidays, write a stack of checks, pat myself on the back, and look to 2020.

Honest answer: This year I’m doing a poor job of being intentional, impactful or giving year-round. Did I mention I have an excuse?

My donor habits have a direct impact on the organizations I support. While reading the book Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear, it occurred to me that my giving habits are sliding.

I read a book every month or so with a small group of friends. We meet for breakfast to discuss the book. Sometimes we love the book, sometimes not so much. Either way, we share insights and experiences. We learn together.

We all liked this one. And it got me to thinking about how to build good giving habits. It’s not enough to have a goal to give through-out the year. It’s not enough to want to be intentional or make an impact.

According to Clear, I need to create systems to help me accomplish those goals. I need to back up and identify mini habits that will build toward my giving goals. He outlines four laws of behavior change to help me move in the direction of my intention – year-round giving.

Atomic Habit’s Four Laws of Behavior Change

  1. Make it obvious
  2. Make it attractive
  3. Make it easy
  4. Make it satisfying

Join me for a few minutes while I think about how to apply each of the behavior change laws to my giving habits.

How do I make giving obvious? Well, it’s easy to be aware of the importance of giving year-round based on the solicitation letters and invitations that come to my mailbox. Awareness is easy. I can create a file with the letters and newsletters I want handy when I start writing checks.

How do I make it attractive? Clear suggests joining a culture where your desired behavior is normal. I give every month to the Women’s Fund, a local giving circle. Giving with a group encourages and continually educates me about giving opportunities. I enjoy being with my fellow giving friends.

How do I make it easy? Giving to the Women’s Fund is easy because I do it through bank draft. There might be other organizations I would like to give to in a similar way. I should look at the organizations I support and ask myself that question. That’s what Clear calls reducing friction, decreasing the number of steps between me and a good habit. It also uses technology to make it easy.

How do I make it satisfying? There is a long list of other organizations I love to support. My husband and I review my list, his list, and then each year create our list. I love that about us.

My next step will be to circle back through these behaviors and create more mini habits to give year-round. I plan to start this month.

Check out James Clear’s book, “Atomic Habits;” I highly recommend it. The tag line on the book cover “Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results” is a promise that will touch your life in many ways. If you read it, don’t forget I invited you on the giving journey with me.

What habits will you change to make remarkable results for the nonprofits on your list?

Like it? Use it. Share it. Comment below.


  1. Gail McGlothin


  2. Mrs. Sweetspot

    I was just thinking about giving habits and stumbled unto this article. Great advice to frame it in light of that book.


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