The holidays are a time marked by generosity and altruism, and they can serve as an excellent opportunity for philanthropists to thrive. Of course, one does not have to be a millionaire or CEO in order to embrace the philanthropic spirit and contribute to a meaningful case.

Giving to charity during the holidays can help lift spirits and improve mental health. Science shows that being kind induces happiness, and people are more likely to continually be kind and generous when they feel they are acting upon the right opportunity.

Charitable donations are an annual holiday tradition for many. In fact, the average household donate’s over $2,500 each year to an organization of their choice.

Holiday charity giving is a wonderful way to help others. Below are some suggestions on how to choose the right charity and make the most meaningful donation.

Volunteer Time

Not every charitable contribution has to be financial. Giving one’s time at a soup kitchen, animal shelter, church or other organization can be just as impactful as money. People should look for local opportunities and offer whatever they have; keep an eye out for toy and food drives as well, which can help transform someone’s holiday season.

Conduct Research

Unfortunately, some charitable organizations do not utilize their proceeds the way donors would like. Some charities barely contribute anything to their cause.

Significant research should be done to ensure that an organization gives as much as it can to its cause. Every organization needs to take a portion of donations for resources, but the bulk of a charity’s income should be given away, not pocketed by individuals.

Look at the Leaders

Who runs an organization? The leadership of a charity will greatly influence how its run and how its donations are used. A charity should have an identifiable, verifiable leader and passionate staff. Be wary of organizations that operate namelessly within the private sector and have a murky track record – the inability to maintain management typically suggests a company is unstable and not aligned with its business model.

Making the Right Call

Look inward and ask questions. Identifying core values and organizations that reflect those are the best way to find a rewarding charity to donate to this holiday season. With research and some commitment, being philanthropic can be something that goes on all year.