‘Tis the season when many people start thinking about charitable giving for the holidays. There are a lot of organizations clamoring for your hard-earned money. Use these handy tips to ensure you’re making the best decisions when it comes to doling out charitable gifts.
– Seek out an established charity.Especially in times of crisis or disasters, charities seem to pop up out of nowhere in response. A good check that an organization is established is that it has at least been approved for tax purposes as a non-profit. Ensure charities are registered as tax-exempt with 501(c)(3) status (check IRS.gov for “EO Select Check” to verify that an organization is registered as exempt).
– Research the charity in question.Consider your gift a financial investment and conduct due diligence before deciding how to invest it. Check out sites like charitynavigator.org and guidestar.org, which have done a lot of the work by vetting organizations based on criteria like financial stability, funding, transparency, and ethical practices.
– Give an unrestricted donation. Once you’ve established the organization handles its funds well, consider giving money that isn’t earmarked for a specific effort. This gives the charity freedom to decide how to use the gift (and lets it decide what is most helpful).
– Look for a matching gift. Find out if your place of employment, church, social club, or a neighborhood business is currently offering to match financial gifts to certain charities. Taking advantage of a matching effort helps the donation go even further.
– Consider tax benefits. Generally, donations of cash and property to qualified non-profit organizations equaling $250 or more are tax deductible. These donations must be made no later than December 31 of the year in which the deduction is claimed.