Giving to charity has never been easier. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, over 1.4 million nonprofit organizations are registered with the IRS. With so many charities to choose from, it’s important to ensure your donation is well spent. Here are some tips that can help you become both a generous and wise donor.
Choose your charities: Choosing worthy organizations that support causes you care about can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be time-consuming. There are several organizations that rate and review charities, and provide useful information that can help you make wise charitable choices.
Harness the power of matching gifts: Many employers will match charitable donations made by their employees. There may be guidelines (ie, your employer may only match your gift up to a certain dollar limit), and the charity may need to provide information, but this is an easy way to maximize your donation.
Put your gifts on autopilot: An easy way to contribute regularly to a favorite charity is to set up automatic donation. When donors contribute automatically, the charity benefits by potentially lowering fundraising costs and by establishing a foundation of regular donors. You’ll also benefit, as spreading donations throughout the year may enable you to give more and simplify your record keeping.
Look for new ways to give: While cash donations are always welcome, charities also encourage other types of gifts. If you meet certain requirements, you may be able to give stock, real estate, personal property, or direct gifts from your IRA or other retirement accounts. You can also volunteer your time, using your talents to improve the lives of others in your community.
Know what you can afford: Stick to your giving goals, and learn to say no. Legitimate charities will not make you feel guilty if you can’t give, and will happily to send you information that can help you make an informed decision rather than pressure you to give right away.
Be cautious: If approached by a solicitor, ask for identification and never provide your Social Security number, credit card number, bank account number, or other personal information over the phone or in response to an e-mail you didn’t initiate.
Keep good records: You may be able to deduct donations you’ve made to tax-qualified charities when you file your taxes, but you need documentation. Keep copies of cancelled checks, bank statements, credit card statements, or receipts showing the charity’s name, date, and amount of the contribution. For donations or contributions of $250 or more, you’ll need a more detailed written acknowledgment from the charity.