Tips for Charitable Giving


Americans are a generous people. The Giving USA Foundation reported that, even now, in what is called “the worst economic climate since the great depression,” estimated gifts to charity for 2008 totaled $307.65 billion. That is a huge amount of money, but the need is also great. As of earlier in this year of 2010, there were 507,608 charities that have filed with the IRS. They fall into 26 different categories. That number does not include most churches and some other groups, so the number is actually more than one million charities.

The situation is:

1. There is a vast amount of money donated to charities.

2. The needs around the world are so great they are immeasurable.

3. Some charities operate more efficiently and honestly than others.

4. It is incumbent upon the potential donor to do his homework and discover which charity meets the needs that are most important to him in the most effective, least costly way.

Here are facts and tips to help you make wise decisions about your charitable giving:

1. 50% of all charitable gifts for the entire year are given between the day after Thanksgiving and December 31. You might want to consider making your donation at a time other than late November / December or perhaps as an equal amount given each month of the year.

2. You will need accurate information about charities which work to alleviate the problem about which you are most concerned. The Better Business Bureau has a tremendous amount of current, accurate information about many charities. There are numerous other websites which report information such as what portion of funds donated go for fundraising and what portion goes to actually helping people. This information is readily available on the Internet.

3. Some people wonder, “Is it better to give small contributions to several different charities, or should I give a larger amount to just one?” Generally speaking, it is better to give a larger amount to one charity, because a larger percent of the money given goes to meeting needs and a smaller percent for expenses and fundraising.

4. Those who run illicit scams to enrich themselves by raising money for fake charities often do so by telephone. Know the warning signs of a potential scam. They include:
- The caller pressuring you to make an immediate decision.
- A “sob story” being told about why your contribution is needed immediately.
- The promise of a prize or gift if you contribute.
- Insistence that you give your credit card number and information.
- The caller wanting to send a messenger to your home to pick up your donation.

5. How should you give? Should you ever donate cash?
- Never send cash as a donation. Always write a check made out to the name of the charity.
- Always keep a written record of your gift, noting the name and address of the charity, the date of the donation and the amount given.

6. Today, there is a wealth of information available on the Internet. Some requests for donations come by way of the Internet. It can be a valuable tool to learn about the needs and the organizations that meet them. As always, the key is to get the information you need to make proper decisions. Remember that anyone can create a website whose address ends in “.org.” That designation does not necessarily make it the site of a legitimate charity.

7. Remember that gifts of money and property given to qualified non-profits are tax deductible. However, a person must keep a record of their contributions. For gifts of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the charity to which you gave the gift. For other information about charitable giving, see the U. S. government publication #526, “Charitable Contributions.” It will answer most of your questions about this subject and refer you to other publications that have specialized information to fit a particular subject.

The charitable spirit that causes Americans to donate vast sums of money to help the less fortunate is surely one of the things that make this country great. Hopefully this is an attitude that will continue and increase.

This post was written by

jason – who has written posts on Budget Clowns.
Father of three and married to a lovely women. Always looking for ways to save money, and invest it properly for my children's future.

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