As we head into a new year, make the most of your charitable donations by following some of these useful tips.
1. Create a giving budget. It is always helpful to have a plan for how you want to give throughout the year. Take a moment to think about how much you can and want to donate, when during the year you are able to give, as well as the types of organizations you’d like to support.
2. Know how your charitable gifts can affect your taxes. Charitable contributions are not only an act of generosity, but they can also have a favorable result when it comes to filing your taxes. For example, the reinstated IRA Charitable Rollover for 2011 allows certain individuals to contribute up to $100,000 directly to charity without it being taxed as part of their income. Learn more by reading Taxes and Giving, or visit the IRS’s website for further tax information.
3. Be proactive. You don’t have to wait to be asked by an organization to make a donation. Seek out organizations that are doing work you care about and support their efforts.
4. It’s OK to say “no”. You don’t have to give every time you’re asked. If you ever feel unsure, uncomfortable, or if it is simply outside your giving plan, just say, “No thanks”.
5. Be an informed giver. Before you make a gift, do your research. If you are hoping to make a tax-deductible contribution, make sure the organization is a 501c3 nonprofit. Review the organization’s website or annual report to find out more information about its programs and accomplishments. For a comprehensive evaluation of the nonprofit, see if the organization has been reviewed by the Charities Review Council, or for national organizations, check out the Better Business Bureau for a review.
6. Consider giving throughout the year. In order to spread out your charitable expenses, you may find it helpful to make contributions to various organizations at different times during the year, rather than all at the end of the year, for example. You might also consider splitting your yearly gifts into monthly payments. You can often set up an automatic electronic transfer, which is not only convenient for you, but it also helps lower fundraising costs for the nonprofit and allows them to better predict revenue for the year.
7. Take advantage of your employer’s matching gift program. The easiest way to make your gift go further is to have your employer match your gift. Contact your employer to find out if this is option for you.
8. Donate your stuff. In addition to donating your time and money, many organizations also accept your new or gently used clothes, furniture, and household items. A few will even accept your car. Check out the Council’s Donating Autos and Goods search to find an organization to accept your items.
9. Keep a record of your contributions. To ensure that you are able to take advantage of the charitable giving tax benefits, you want to track the organizations you are giving to, their address, and the amount you give. If your gift is over $250, you will also need a receipt from the organization for tax filing purposes.
10. Get involved. A valuable way to contribute to the organizations you support is to volunteer your time and skills. Not only is volunteering a way to give back, but it also helps to build a relationship with the organizations you support monetarily.
For more tips and helpful giving information, check out the other donor resources on our website.