It’s that time of year when charitable giving is in the forefront. Here’s how to make your charity donations and contributions count for more.
Photo by Hamed Saber.
As the holidays draw closer, more charities turn up, seeking your help. You may begin noticing the use of provocative ads and images that are used to pull at your heartstrings. The question is — how much do these monetary requests affect you? Do you suffer from charitable guilt and wind up giving more than you can really afford? These are some pointed questions to ask, so I’d like to present some practical tips on the subject of charitable giving:
10 Practical Tips To Make Your Charity Donations and Contributions Count For More
1. Be aware of the power of advertising.
Charities are organizations that are run just like regular businesses. Marketing experts design their campaigns to effectively extract charitable donations from your pocket. So it would serve us well to carefully look at a charity of interest and review their history or progress, as part of the due diligence we do before committing to a cause. We shouldn’t be duped by glossy campaigns that appeal to our emotions rather than our intellect. See if most of your charitable donation is going to the cause rather than administrative expenses to run the charity.
2. Work with legitimate charities.
It seems straightforward enough — most of us realize that not all charities are legitimate. Many organizations exist out there that bill themselves as good samaritans. Unfortunately, not all have pure intentions.
We should avoid donating to questionable organizations. After all, noone wants to end up supporting a scammer with their hard-earned cash. So beware of telephone calls, door-to-door solicitors and unusual mailings. There are several ways to verify that a charity is legitimate, such as by contacting the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
3. Look into tithing if you belong to a house of worship.
If you belong to a congregation, then one avenue for giving to charity is through your church. Does your church require tithing? Certain houses of worship request a percentage of your income as a weekly donation. If you cannot afford the tithing requirements at your house of worship, speak to the powers that be. In most instances, tithing requirements are just guidelines. You certainly should not go hungry to meet tithing requirements.
4. Include “charity” as part of your budget and tax planning.
If you intend to donate to charity on a regular basis, then it’s a good idea to set aside a specific amount for this purpose in your monthly budget, particularly if you are giving away cash. Once you include charitable donations in your budget, you are able to plan ahead for this “expense”. Just like any other expenditure, exceeding your designated amount for charity will mean that you’re going over your monthly budget. This strategy should help you avoid spontaneous and unplanned handouts that can cause you to exceed what you can afford to give.
5. Give charitable gifts for the holidays.
This may be a bit of an unusual present, but another way to give to your favorite charities is to donate in behalf of your friends and family. Instead of giving away another striped tie or pair of fuzzy socks, why not consider the gift of giving for your loved one?
Be aware though, that this may not necessarily fly with some of your gift recipients, as they may prefer to receive something directly intended for them. But for those whom you know will appreciate your thoughtful gift to charity, donating in their names is a wonderful gesture. In these cases, wrap up a card stating that you’ve made a donation in behalf of your loved one, and give them this present. This gesture may allow people who may otherwise not have the money for charitable donations to be able to provide towards a worthy cause.
6. Choose your charities.
There are so many good causes out there that it’s difficult to select the ones you’d like to support. Well, the truth is, you can’t support everyone. Focus instead on a few key charities you feel most passionate about. My husband is a disabled veteran so we’ve always been behind the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization. We both have cancer survivors in our immediate family so the American Cancer Society is also another one of our favored charities. Although I want to give to others, I realize I cannot afford to.
7. Verify that your donation is tax deductible.
Before you give, know the tax considerations and consequences of your donations. If need be, consult with a tax professional about this, as there are some details that may escape you that a professional may bring to your attention. For instance, if you donate to a not-for-profit corporation rather than a charitable organization, your donation may not be tax deductible. It’s therefore in your best interest to find out what your tax benefits are before making a contribution.
8. How about trying your hand at fund raising?
If you don’t have the means but you have the desire to donate, then why not sponsor a fund raiser? Some great ideas include conducting a bake sale, planning a walk-a-thon or handing out fliers at your community center. In my case, I organize an annual lemonade fund raiser with my children through the Sunkist Take A Stand program. They provide an adorable stand with an organizational plan for kids to raise money for their favorite charity. This past summer my kids had a wonderful time and were extremely pleased when they raised $16 for the benefit of the Disabled American Veterans organization.
9. Donate through online methods, without paying a dime.
There are actually websites out there that donate money and other items to the needy, with the help of their visitors. By simply clicking around some of these sites, you may contribute to the site’s charitable cause. Here are but a few examples of “click to donate” web sites:
- Do you want to help feed the hungry? Check out Free Rice, a UN World Food Program where you play simple, educational games for free in order to give rice to the hungry. I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t sure how valid this site was at first, but based on what Snopes says, they are definitely on the “up and up”.
- Are you worried about our forlorn furry friends? The Petfinder.com Foundation sponsors the Animal Rescue Site where you’re able to donate by simply clicking on a link (daily). This site also suggests a few more ways to help for free. By shopping at the site’s store for items you may already need for your pets, you’ll be able to give more as well.
There are many other such sites that support a variety of charitable groups. For just a few minutes of your time, you can donate to worthy causes without making a dent in your budget.
10. Give your time.
Charities, churches and non-profit organizations always need volunteers. Whether you have an hour or a month of your time to donate around the holidays, every minute you can spare makes a difference. With so much to do and few people to help out, charities will gladly welcome all the help we can give — they will always have tasks and roles available for the taking, that will fit and fill any amount of time offered to them. I can’t think of a better way to get into the holiday spirit! 🙂