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'Tis the Season: The Do’s and Don’ts of Charitable Giving

Submitted by strandslucia on Thu, 12/16/2010 - 15:40
Smart Living //

'Tis the season for giving! A survey by the American Red Cross found that 57 percent of American adults plan to donate to charity this holiday season, despite the economic downturn.

The same survey showed that while 86 percent of Americans reported their personal finances are the same or worse than last year, 72 percent expect to give the same amount or more than last year to charity.

If you’re one of the many Americans opening your heart and your wallet for a good cause this holiday season, its important to be smart about how you do it. Here are 10 do’s and don’ts to follow for charitable giving:

DO….

  • Donate directly to the charity’s website, rather than via telemarketer, snail mail or door-to-door solicitor. There are many charity scams out there and the best way to ensure you’re giving to the right cause is to go directly to the source.
  • Get a receipt or documentation. Donating not only allows you to support your favorite charity, but it can reduce your tax bill. Getting the proper documentation will enable you to file all necessary forms with the IRS.
  • Figure out how much of your contribution is deductible and be sure it’s a qualified organization. The amount you can deduct will depend on your adjusted gross income and the type of donation made.
  • Plan ahead. If money is tight but you still want to support an organization, be sure to set up a budget early in the year for charitable donations. Setting aside just $5 per month will add up by the end of the year.
  • Track your donations. If you donate throughout the year, be sure to save your receipts and tag the appropriate transactions within moneyStrands.

DON’T….

  • Forget to include the name of the charity, the amount of money or description of items donated and a good-faith estimate of the value of goods or services provided.
  • Give out personal information without asking about privacy policies. Some charities will rent or sell lists with addresses or phone numbers. If you want to avoid spam and telemarketers, ask about their privacy policies before divulging this info.
  • Get pressured into giving to just any charity. Now days its common for solicitors to park themselves at the entrance of a store or for cashiers at your local supermarket to ask you for donations. Sometimes we give on impulse, without knowing how the money is spent. Its best to research charities, find one that supports a cause that is near and dear to your heart and give directly to the source.
  • Donate worn out or unusable goods. According the BBB, these types o goods cost charities millions of dollars each year because the organization has to bear the cost of disposing of them.
  • Feel like you have to give money. If you want to help out in some way, but can’t contribute monetary donations, consider volunteering your time.

If you’re looking for reputable sites to help you evaluate charities, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and the Better Business Bureau are great sites to check out.

Do you donate to charity during the holidays? What are some of your favorite charities to give to?

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