It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also the time when mailboxes – of both the sidewalk and electronic variety – are filled with donation requests.

Those requests drive results: According to Statistics Canada, 82 percent of Canadians aged 15 and older gave a total of $12.8 billion to charitable or non-profit organizations in 2013.

But trying to choose among the many worthwhile causes hoping to gain a place in your heart and some cash from your bank account can be overwhelming.

Pattie Lovett-Reid, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and chief financial commentator at CTV News, shares her top five tips for ensuring the season of giving is also the season of financial savvy:

1. Align giving with values.

  • Do you want to give locally, nationally or globally?
  • Are you a friend of the environment or animals?
  • Are you concerned about the plight of refugee children?
  • Is there health research that is near and dear to you?

When it comes to charitable giving, it’s best to align with something you believe in.

2. Clarity matters.

When giving to a large organization, be specific about how you’d like your gift to be used. The Canadian Cancer Society, for example, seeks funding for many different areas of the disease. Determine which area of cancer research you wish to support and be sure to specify when sending in your gift.

3. Do your due diligence.

  • Check the numbers to see how much of your gift will actually go toward the intended use versus admin costs.
  • Ensure you’re dealing with a registered charity.
  • Obtain a donation receipt so you can get a tax credit for your gift.

Due diligence is a key element of financial planning whether you’re saving, investing or giving.

4. Think outside the box.

If you’d like to support more charities than your wallet will currently allow, consider other ways to contribute. Ask what you can do to help, whether it’s knocking on doors as an ambassador, donating gently used clothing, or cleaning out animal cages. Or talk to your family and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional about leaving a legacy in your will.

5. It’s okay to say no.

The reality is, you can’t give something to everyone.

There are a myriad of charitable giving options and federal and provincial governments offer tax incentives that encourage Canadians to contribute. Your financial planner can help navigate the alternatives and establish a comprehensive plan that maximizes tax benefits and fits within your means, whether the budget is large or small. If you need qualified, professional financial help, our Find Your Planner tool tool can help put you in touch with someone in your area who can help. 

For more on achieving your financial goals, read 5 ways early tax planning keeps money in your pocket and 6 ways to balance your financial priorities.