Just in time for your year-end giving, here are a few tips from JustGive about donating your money wisely.
Budget for giving. Include philanthropy in your budget just as you do other financial commitments.
Be informed. Ask questions when someone asks for a donation, including the charity’s 501(c)3 number, the solicitor’s name and relationship to the organization, how much of your gift is used for overhead expenses, information about the specific project receiving your money, and other details that matter to you. Give only when you feel comfortable your dollars will support an organization you know and believe in.
Check donor reviews. See what people with direct experience have to say about the charity and the work they do. Find reviews at GreatNonprofits and use the information to guide your giving.
Keep records. For gifts of less than $250, a canceled check is sufficient for IRS requirements. For larger gifts, you’ll need a tax-deductible receipt from the charity as confirmation. (For all donations made through JustGive, you receive an email confirmation, which serves as your receipt.)
Understand how much is really tax deductible. If you receive a premium in exchange for your gift (such as a book or a dinner), the amount of your tax deduction is reduced by the fair market value of that item. You can turn down the incentive if you wish to claim the full deduction.
Ask about matching gifts. Many employers match gifts or make grants to organizations recommended by employees. Be sure to ask your employer how they can help make your gift worth more.
Remember, your gift can be confidential. If you prefer for your gift to remain confidential, let the organization know. (Whenever you make a donation through JustGive, you have the option to make it anonymous. This can eliminate unwanted future solicitations.)
Volunteer your time. In addition to financial support, consider giving your time and skills. Not only will you help the organization, but you’ll also make contacts, add to your experience, and learn more about a charitable cause.
Be proactive. Research the causes you care about most. Look into charities where you live or learn more about the charities you feel passionate about. Plan a giving strategy and contact your chosen charities to discuss how your gifts can do the most good.
Consider alternatives. Don’t overlook the benefits of bequests, charitable gift annuities, gifts-in-kind, endowments and many other creative forms of giving. Your financial advisor or attorney can help you identify options that generate a win-win result.