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ACCOUNTABILITY: Find out where your dollars go once you have donated them to an organization. An honest charity is one that is willing to supply donors with financial reports and publications that enlighten donors on their cost allocation or how they allocate their money between direct programming, as opposed to administrative and fundraising costs. 

BUDGET: Include your charitable donations when creating your budget. Just as you plan for other things in your life, you’ll be much more effective both charitably and in seeing the tax advantages when you budget in advance.

CAUTIOUS GIVING: Never donate cash to an organization.  It is too easily lost and your donation may not be accounted for. Always use checks or credit cards, but make sure you don’t give out your credit card number over the phone or to an unfamiliar organization. When writing a check, always write it out to the full, official name of the organization.  

EFFECTIVENESS: Perhaps it is more beneficial to you and to a charity to reflect on alternative means of giving, including bequests, charitable gift annuities, gifts-in-kind, endowments or many others. Ask your attorney or tax advisor for assistance in determining what is the best plan for you and the organizations you support. 

FREEBIES: Never feel an obligation to make a donation to an organization that sends you “free” gifts like calendars or address labels. Some people feel the gift necessitates repayment to an organization they wouldn’t necessarily support, but that only encourages future solicitations and more free gifts. Check out our Donor Beware page to view other cautions you should take against aggressive fundraising.

PHILOSOPHY: Take time to determine what causes you believe are most important. You’ll be less apt to respond to pressure if your giving plan concentrates only on causes that you find appealing. When researching causes, look into each organization’s philosophy and mission statements to better understand what you will be supporting.

PROACTIVITY: Don’t wait to be asked to make a donation. Take control of your personal philanthropy by researching causes to find stable and effective charities, such as the list of charities reviewed by the Council.

RECORDKEEPING: To receive the best tax benefits,  keep good records of all donations you make. Gifts of clothing or household items will be deductible only if the items are in "good used condition or better." Single items for which the donor has received a qualified appraisal and taken a deduction of more than $500 are not subject to this rule. Nor are food, paintings, antiques, art objects, jewelry, or collections.

Contributions of cash, checks, or other monetary gifts, regardless of amount, must be substantiated by a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity, the date of the contribution, and the amount.

RESOLUTION: Being firm in saying NO to a charity benefits you and them. Don’t feel bad about saying “no” because realistically, no one can support everything. If you give them a firm answer, the organization won’t waste money directing future solicitations your way. Never respond to pressured or overtly emotional solicitations that lack substance.

TELEMARKETING: When you receive a phone call soliciting funds for a charitable organization, listen carefully to the name of the organization. If a professional fundraiser is calling on behalf of the organization, they should state that and tell you how much of your donation will go to them for their services and what portion will go to the tax-exempt organization itself. If the organization is using aggressive, misleading or disrespectful tactics, hang up.

YOUTH PHILANTHROPY: Children are natural givers and their philanthropic education should be included in your giving plan. Teach them about different causes, include them in charitable events, and encourage them to donate a portion of their own money to causes they support. Check out the Council’s Great Givers program for more on youth philanthropy.