I kicked off the summer with a vacation in South Carolina, rooting for my son and his college baseball team in a tournament. For me, summer is all about spending more time doing what I love—biking, seeing family, and having barbecues.

But there’s another side of summer that I’ve become aware of since I started working at Vanguard Charitable: the heightened need many charities have for funding this time of year.

The fiscal year for many nonprofits ends June 30, but donors tend to make charitable contributions toward the end of the calendar year as they think about tax deductions. As a result, charities can experience a shortfall in the summer.

Timing is important (and often overlooked)

According to a recent survey by Vanguard Charitable, 96% of charities prefer to receive donations year-round, rather than just at year-end. We received more than 600 comments on the survey that showed a clear trend—charities need year-round contributions to maintain steady cash flow and provide uninterrupted services. The comment we received from one organization in particular stood out to me:

“As a nonprofit with less than $3 million cash operating budget, this seasonal giving trend sometimes paralyzes our organization in the months of February (when the December overflow runs out) and in the months of July, August, and September before the flood of donations for the fall.”

Rather than making a lump-sum contribution at year-end, consider making an “off season” contribution. You can also set up automatic contributions to occur monthly, quarterly, or semiannually to help your favorite charity provide crucial services during the leaner summer months.

Space out your generosity with help from a donor-advised fund

While there are several giving options available for saving and granting to charity, donor-advised funds are growing in popularity as a giving tool. A donor-advised fund offers a tax-efficient and convenient way to allocate money to charities now and in the future.

When you invest in a donor-advised fund, you make an irrevocable contribution in an account that’s earmarked for charitable giving. The contribution is tax-deductible in the year it’s made, and the assets grow tax-free. At any time, you can use the funds to grant to a charity or charities of your choice (as long as they meet IRS requirements).

While many investors tend to grant between October and December, the typical Vanguard Charitable account makes five grants during the year, and more than 10% of all grants are made automatically. Making regular, automatic grants not only helps charities weather funding droughts, but it also helps reduce the charity’s need to fund-raise.

Think long-term

In addition to supporting charities today, many investors use donor-advised funds to save for future giving opportunities. The flexibility of a donor-advised fund allows you to make a large, impactful gift at some point, contribute during your working years and make grants when you’re retired, or pass your giving legacy along to future generations. This kind of strategic planning can also help you reduce your taxable income as you help charities fund their programs today and tomorrow.

Giving for the greater good

Your support makes all the difference to charities and the causes they support. Working at Vanguard Charitable, I have a newfound understanding not only of the importance of charitable donations, but also the critical nature of when those donations are made. I’m happy to spread the word about the importance of year-round charitable giving, and I’m humbled by your generosity and commitment to making the most of your charitable contributions.

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Although Vanguard provides certain investment management and administrative services to Vanguard Charitable under a service agreement, the two organizations are separate entities. Vanguard Charitable is not a program or activity of Vanguard and the majority of Vanguard Charitable’s trustees are independent of Vanguard.