The new year is a time of reflection and new beginnings. Looking back on 2012 and the high number of disasters, I decided to make a new year’s resolution to increase my charitable giving with my left over holiday dollars. Here are a few ideas and resources to help you decide how to pick a reputable charity and make sure your money goes where it’s most needed.
Research Before You Give
Worried about how much of your donation actually reaches people in need? For ten years, Charity Navigator has been reviewing charitable organizations to guide “intelligent giving”. BEFORE you give please check out their tips for choosing and giving here.
Take Out the Guesswork
A tried and true charity takes the guess work out of giving. Pick an organization that has weathered the test of time and is still going strong. Organizations like the United Way and the Red Cross pool your money with others and send it where it’s needed.
Pick Something Near and Dear to Your Heart
I give in honor of my late mother-in-law to the leukemia/lymphoma society because I know how helpful that group was during our time of need. Support a worthy organization by giving in honor of a loved one that was helped by them.
Keep it Local
Giving to a local organization in your community is a great way to help the people and causes you care about thrive. Plus, you’ll be able to see your funds at work and can hold them accountable much easier. Check with local civic organizations or temples, churches and synagogues for ideas.
Or Go Big with Crowd Sourced Funding
Crowd sourced funding has become huge. Even charities are getting on board! Just Give makes donating so easy through their website, and they give you easy access to thousands of organizations. You can use them to give to a known charity or use the search function to find a cause to support. You can also do gift donations in other people’s names or even buy gift cards so the recipient can direct the donation as they prefer. Note that 95.5% of your donation goes to the charity as they take a 4.5% debit/credit card processing fee.
Interested in helping in the area of education? With school budgets being slashed, sometimes it’s hard for teachers to get needed supplies for the classroom and even harder to find funds for special projects and trips. Check out Donors Choose which links teachers and their wish lists with generous people who are helping support their needs. I once helped fund a really cool classroom project for a local school teacher. Another crowd sourced funding website is Indiegogo, which is an international site to raise money for music, arts, small businesses, theater, charities and more. On Indiegogo I helped fund the purchase of property to build a museum dedicated to Nicolas Tesla! Nice to note: if the proposed project does not happen, your money will be refunded to you.
Need Some Help Yourself?
Tragedy or opportunity? There’s a website called Go Fund Me that allows you make your own donation page and share it to your social media network to facilitate collections for whatever tragedy or life event you want to raise money for. They keep a 5% fee for the hosting service.
Be Careful of Tax Deduction Laws
Did you know that not all organizations are tax deductible? If you are giving to be able to take a deduction on your taxes be very careful because not all causes are set up as tax deductible ones. The IRS is very strict about charitable contributions. Make sure you get valid proof of your contribution; cash or goods. Check this publication from the IRS for more information or consult your tax professional.
It’s Not Just About Money
Even if you don’t have any “extra” money, think about donating goods or even your time. Look in your closets. Maybe you have children’s clothes that are outgrown but still in good condition that you can donate. Coats donations are so very welcomed this time of year. Or you can donate food items to the local pantry. Food donations are needed all year long, not just around the holidays. Our previous post has links to local food pantries and charities from Westchester, NY to Boston, MA. Another idea is when making out your 2013 holiday cards to add one for a soldier. Remember that if you can’t give money or goods, many organizations could use the donation of your time. Whatever you choose, a donation during this cold winter season is sure to warm your heart and the worlds of those receiving your gift. Please post any tips for charitable giving below.