Tip on deciding on how much to give to an individual charity

Most of us feel generous in December, the top month for charitable donations, reports the Atlas of Giving. But regardless of when you give, you want to make sure that the funds are actually used to do real good.

A 2012 study from the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the median amount American households donate to charity each year is $2,564. That’s a nice chunk of change, but not if you’re divvying it up among dozens of organizations.

“For every gift, there are fixed costs associated with stewarding and tracking it,” adds Patrick Rooney, director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. “So the smaller the gift, the larger the percentage that goes to transaction and administrative costs.”

Jason Franklin, who teaches nonprofit management and philanthropy at New York University and is executive director of Bolder Giving, a nonprofit focused on helping Americans give more effectively, suggests using the 50/20/30 rule: Half your giving should be focused on one charity — the gift you’ll spend the most time thinking about.

Then set aside 20% for small impulse gifts and the final 30% for institutions you support on a regular basis, like your alma mater or your church.