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Tis the season to spread cheer, be generous – and spend money, of course. And as U.S. consumers are expected, per a Gallup Poll, to spend an average of $800 this holiday season, why not kill two birds with one stone and make a charitable gift on someone’s behalf?

Not only could it save you some money, you can avoid the stress of shopping and having to worry about getting the “perfect gift.”

Here’s how to go about doing so, and a few pointers for optimizing your donation.

Search for a Meaningful Charity

To figure out which organization to donate to on behalf of friends, coworkers or relations, think about what causes they care most deeply about. Perhaps it’s an environmental issue they post about frequently on social media, somewhere they volunteer or a cause they have sought donations for through a Facebook campaign. Whether it’s protecting the tortoises, promoting children’s welfare or helping with the California wildfires, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a nonprofit that speaks to your giftee.

For instance, every year I donate on behalf of an owner of a coworking space who lets me use the space to host freelancing events. As it’s a dog-friendly space, I typically donate to a pet rescue.

You’ll also want to make sure the money you donate will be spent responsibly. Charity watchdog sites such as Charity Watch and Charity Navigator rate charities. Charity Navigator calculates scores based on factors such as a charity’s financial health, accountability and transparency. Charity Watch scores on how efficient an organization is. Criteria includes how much money it takes a charity to raise $100, and the percentage of total expenses a charity spends on programs.

Give a Charity Gift Card

Not sure what nonprofit to donate to? Charity gift cards are a neat idea, as they provide the feel-good vibes of giving someone a tangible item. You can order a gift card – either a physical card or e-card – for a handful of popular nonprofits through charity gift card sites such as TisBest or GlobalGiving. You can search for charities and projects by country or cause. Giftees will enjoy spending that gift card on a charity of their choice.

Donate Your Time

If you’re trying to save over the holidays (aren’t we all?), then consider volunteering at a charity of the giftee’s choice. As time is the most valuable resource, the time spent volunteering on behalf of someone who is too busy to do so will be much appreciated.

You can scour opportunities through sites such as VolunteerMatch or Idealist. Many volunteer opportunities don’t require a lot of specialized skills or training. A couple of hours on an evening or weekend could be enough.

Start a Crowdfunding Campaign

While this requires more work, if you’d like to make a larger, more involved contribution to a charity, you could create a crowdfunding campaign through GoFundMe or JustGiving.

You’ll want to make sure you have the time to make that commitment and check taxes and fees so you know exactly how much the charity will receive. For instance, GoFundMe charges 7.9% plus 0.30 for each donation.

Maximize your giving

Here are some pointers for making the most of donations you make on someone else’s behalf:

Aim to save money. Donate to a charity on behalf of a company, couple or entire family. You can double up on gifts.

Look for dollar-matching charities. Some organizations offer dollar-matching, so your money goes twice as far.

Tax deductions. End-of-year tax deductions will come in handy when it comes time to pay Uncle Sam. Cash donations you make in someone else’s name can certainly be deducted. Check the IRS database for a list of charities that are tax deductible.

Per the 2018 Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA), cash gifts are now deductible up to 60% of adjusted gross income. This is up from 50% in 2017. To boot, you have up to 6 years to use your tax-deductible charitable contributions. (Pro tip: Look for tax incentives you may be missing out on when you donate to charity.)

This holiday season, instead of spending money on a tangible gift or experience, consider making a charitable donation to a few people on your giftees list. Whether you’re offering your time or money, there’s nothing quite like giving back to causes someone is passionate about.

What are some ways you plan to give back this holiday season? Let us know in the comments below!

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