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Robyn Schein of the Minneapolis Foundation says many people tend to have their charitable priorities all mixed up, supporting other people's passions through workplace fundraisers and charitable events before they fund the causes or issues they care about most. Here's a breakdown:

Obligatory gifts -- these are the Girl Scout cookies or candy bars you buy from a co-worker's child.

Social gifts -- the $20 pledge to your friend running for multiple sclerosis.

Strategic gifts -- these are planned donations to the causes you feel most passionately about.

Instead of first funding obligatory or social gifts, Schein recommends funding your passions and causes first. Imagine a pyramid: A properly balanced giving plan will have passions and causes as the base, and social and obligatory donations at the tip of the pyramid.