Donating this season? Get your give’s worth
Call me a softy, but so many news stories this holiday season have had me in awe at Americans’ potential for kindness. Charitable donations are ticking back up despite the fact that many of the givers are still struggling themselves, and anonymous do-gooders are dropping by layaway counters to pay for the Christmas presents set aside by families worse-off than themselves.
I’m absolutely loving the giving spirit—especially if you are practicing generosity as a family this season. Demonstrating altruism is one of the most important things you can do to raise kids who grow up to give, too. It’s also an opportunity to model these smart giving practices:
Make sure the organization will use your money wisely
Check out free reports from the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (look for organizations designated with the blue and white “BBB Accredited Charity Seal”) and Charity Navigator (check for organizations that have at least three stars). You want to find charities that use a good percentage of money for the programs it runs—both the BBB and Charity Navigator can help you find this information. In fact, Charity Navigator broadened its rating system this year to reflect organizations’ level of transparency and tendencies toward unethical practices.
Get the tax deduction you deserve
If you give money to a qualified nonprofit (check by typing in “search for charities” at irs.gov), your donation reduces your taxable income for the year (if you’re in the 25% tax bracket and you donate $100, you save $25). If you plan to write it off on your next tax bill, make your donation by December 31, and save your receipts. Keep in mind that you have to itemize your tax deductions to take advantage of the break.
Remember, your gift doesn’t have to be cash
If you’ve maxed out your philanthropy budget for the year, help your cause by volunteering your time or donating household items you no longer need. Find opportunities at VolunteerMatch.com or Serve.gov, and keep track of any non-cash donations, which are also eligible for the tax break (get help adding up the value of the goods with the valuation guide at SalvationArmyUSA.org).