Make the most of holiday charitable donations

Woman giving teddy bear to girl at donation center

The holidays bring the spirit of giving out in full force. Between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, charities receive the bulk of their annual donations. Whether it’s a donation of your things, your time or your money, giving to charity is one of the best ways to celebrate the season. The tricky part is determining what organizations are reputable and which are just plain scams.

Decide on a giving goal

There are more than one million charities registered nationwide. So start by deciding which causes you want to support. You can support children or animals. You can choose one that fights life-threatening illnesses or anything else. Do you need to see a result to feel that your contribution has made an impact? Do you have money, things or time to give? You may want to limit your causes to just one or two, allowing your contribution to go further.

Ways to donate

You can always make a direct donation to your preferred organization. Follow a link from their website or social media page. Some charities today accept mobile payments. Your donation appears as a charge on your cell phone bill.

Consider a donation on behalf of a friend or relative. This may be the perfect gift for the person who always says he doesn’t want or need anything.

Just as popular is a “donation-with-purchase.” Here, part of an item’s sale price goes to charity. AmazonSmile, for instance, donates part of each sale to your local charity of choice. Be sure to identify how much of each purchase will go to charity.

Thinking about the gift of time? Try volunteering at your local soup kitchen, rescue mission or food bank. You may even want to spend time cleaning up your community or helping the neighbor down the street. Also consider if you have used clothing, appliances and furniture to give.

Get the most out of your donation

Be alert for scams. Phishing scams target you by phone, e-mail or the Web for donations. In reality, they are looking for your credit card and account numbers. If you’re suspicious or feel pressured or threatened, call the organization’s office. You can also report them to the Better Business Bureau in your area.

Only give to those you trust. Giving has gone digital, but you should not put your trust in a domain name just because it ends with “.org.” You can donate online with your credit card. Make sure the site is secure by looking for ‘https:’ at the start of the domain name. Make sure the charity has a physical mailing address and telephone number. Check out Give.org, Guidestar.org or CharityNavigator.org to ensure the charity is legitimate.

Know where your money’s going. How much of your donation benefits the program? How much covers administrative costs? With high-quality charities, at least 70 percent should go to the cause. Be sure to get a receipt detailing the donation amount (and/or description). Talk to your tax advisor since the donation may be deductible on your tax return.

Charitable giving can be one of the most rewarding ways to celebrate the holidays. Now you can make sure your money and time actually go where your heart is.

The advice provided is for informational purposes only. Consult your tax advisor for additional guidance.

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