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10 Tips for Donating to Charity

  • Research nonprofits and their mission

  • Make wise giving decisions

Donating funds to charity is an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is. Actions speak louder than words and investing in the work of charities can assure progress is made advancing nonprofit causes in which you believe. Here are 10 tips on how to make the most your charitable contributions.

  • Include Philanthropy in Your Budget -You already plan for many things in your life; make charity one of them. With a budget you'll be much more effective in your giving.

  • Determine What Causes are Dear to Your Heart - You also can be far more effective in your giving if you concentrate your donations on causes you believe are most important. You'll be less likely to respond to pressure if you have a giving plan that includes only specific types of nonprofit causes that you find most appealing.

  • Get Information Before Giving - Don't respond to an emotional appeal just because it sounds legitimate. It may be, but then again it may not. Many organizations have names that sound alike. Do a little research; www.guidestar.org is a favorite place to review a charity as is the Better Business Bureau's www.give.org.

  • Include Your Children in Your Donation Process - How did you learn to give? At a certain age (after the word "mine" is no longer a mantra) children are natural givers. Teach them about different causes, include them in charitable events and ask them to consider sharing a portion of their allowance (see budgeting above) to help causes they can understand. It will lead to a lifetime of caring, giving and happiness.

  • Ask Your Employer about a Matching Gift- Today many employers have programs already in place to match donations made by their employees. There may be limits on the types of organizations supported and the amount of the match, but be certain to ask your company about matching gifts. If they don't have a program, your interest might get one started.

  • Learn About Effective Ways to Give - It may be more beneficial to you and to a charity to consider alternative methods of donating including bequests, charitable gift annuities, gifts-in-kind, endowments and many others. Ask your tax advisor or attorney to help you make the best plan for you, your family and for the charities you support.

  • Keep Good Records - For gifts of less than $250, a canceled check or credit card statement is sufficient for IRS requirements. If you give cash, keep a detailed record of each gift if you plan to file for a tax deduction. For individual donations of $250 or more, the IRS requires a receipt from the charity that includes wording that you received no tangible benefit in exchange for your gift. For all donations that do provide you with a tangible benefit (a dinner for example) the charity must determine the amount of that benefit and produce a receipt only for the remainder of your payment as the amount of your donation.

  • Privacy is Your Right - If you prefer confidentiality in your giving, you should be clear in communicating your wishes to charities you support. If a charity fails to honor your request, don't stop giving, just give to another charity that will.

  • Be Firm When You Don't Want to Give - For your own sake and for the sake of the charity making a request, it is better to say "no" rather than "maybe." You can't support everything so don't feel bad about saying "no." Without a decision, the charity will contact you again, you'll feel bothered and pressured, and they will be wasting time better spent trying to contact other potential donors.

  • Be Proactive in Your Giving - Don't wait to be asked to make a donation. Take control of your philanthropy by researching causes, finding stable and effective charities, and by investing in making the world better now and for future generations.

Be generous but be smart in your giving and your philanthropic activities will bring you great personal satisfaction. Get started today.

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