Making Charitable Donations Count

More than ever, not-for-profit organizations need your support. Charitable donations go down during times of economic recession, just when more people need help. But to whom, how, and how much you give are decisions you need to make based on solid information, not just emotions. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to research charities and to make donations.

Choosing Who to Support

It’s important to support organizations whose values and mission mirror your own beliefs, whether by advancing social causes, providing research and education or promoting shared beliefs. But while a charity’s goals and services are important considerations, they are not the only factors to take into account. By being informed, you can ensure that your contribution goes to a legitimate source that will make effective use of the donation.

Tips for Giving

1. Make sure the organization is legitimate.
Choose charities you know, and don’t be fooled by similar-sounding names. Before making a donation, request information and research the organization. Any legitimate charity will happily send information and won’t pressure you to give on the spot.

2. Find out how much of every dollar donated goes to programs. Efficient and effective charities spend 65 percent or more of the donations they receive on programs and services—rather than on salaries, fundraising and administration.

3. Never give over the phone.
While some legitimate organizations do conduct telemarketing, in most cases the telemarketers themselves keep more than half of the money they collect. Even if the person calling is a volunteer for a legitimate charity, don’t give out credit card information over the phone. Ask for them to send you information so you can review it and make an informed decision.

4. Make sure your donation is tax-deductible.
Some non-profit organizations are not charities and your gift may not be deductible.

5. Consider giving more money to fewer organizations.
While giving a smaller amount to many different groups whose mission you appreciate might seem like a good way to support a variety of causes, in reality the processing time and fees associated with taking a donation (whatever the amount) might mean that you’d get more results from your donation by choosing fewer charities and giving each a larger amount.

6. Never give cash.
Both for record-keeping and to help ensure that your money is going to legitimate organizations, don’t give cash. Either mail a check to the organization, or give online directly through the charity’s web site (not through email).

7. Keep records.
File receipts, canceled checks, and credit card statements for any donations you make. For a donation of $250 or more, request a formal receipt from the charity to confirm your donation.

Useful Resources

The Internet makes it easier than ever to research charities and make informed decisions about who to support.

Consult Your Advisor

Beyond monetary donations, there are many ways to support the charities you believe in. Contact your advisor for information on annuities, endowments, gifts in-kind and more.

About the author

Garth Scrivner, CPA/PFS, CFP®

Garth has almost 10 years of experience in financial services in a variety of roles. Prior to joining StanCorp Investment Advisers, he was a principal in his own advisory firm, serving individuals and families in the Albuquerque area with comprehensive financial planning and investment management. He is a Certified Financial Planner® professional, and has his bachelor’s degree in accounting from New Mexico State University.

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