Giving to charitable causes is great for many reasons, from the assistance you provide to the feeling of knowing you are making a difference. Of course, you can’t help every charity. But no matter how small or large, your contributions mean something. Here are some tips to make the most of your donations.
Do some research
Sadly, there are many fake charities and scams that prey on good intentions and never help the causes they claim to be supporting. This kind of fraud often gets worse after disasters (such as the California wildfires). And some charities don’t allocate much of your donation to the people who need it most, which might not technically be a scam but is still disappointing.
Researching a charity, particularly one you’ve never heard of, protects you and ensures your donation truly helps those in need. Charity Navigator and Charity Watch track the legitimacy and ethics of charities and the Federal Trade Commission also offers advice to avoid scams.
Keep track of your donations
Unless you have a good tracking system, you might not remember the last time you made a donation to a particular charity. Keeping track of your donations reminds you how much you’ve given and to whom, and when it might be time to make another donation.
You don’t have to do anything too complex. A notebook or computer file with a short record of your donations or a folder of receipts works fine. 1st United members can also tag the transaction within their account as charity and attach a receipt to it so they can keep that information at their fingertips.
Get receiptsMany people give for the sake of giving and don’t think about asking for receipts for their donations. However, receipts can help you keep track of when and where you’ve made donations, which is helpful later on when you file your taxes.
Most charitable organizations and nonprofit thrift stores such as Goodwill will give you a receipt for your donation if you ask. Keep any receipts you get someplace safe so can easily find them when you prepare your taxes.
Take the deduction
The IRS allows tax filers to deduct charitable donations to qualified organizations from their adjusted gross income. In other words, giving more can reduce the amount of taxes you’ll owe.
You’ll need to itemize your deductions to receive this benefit. It might not save you that much off your tax bill but every little bit helps when your budget is tight. Only donations to qualified organizations (e.g., churches, schools, nonprofits) can be deducted.
The saying “give until it hurts” is meant to inspire people to sacrifice a little to help others. However, you still need to be practical when making charitable donations. Don’t commit money you don’t have or that would be difficult to budget for.
Many churches and some charities offer to transfer a weekly or monthly donation right from your bank account or charge to your credit card. While convenient, be sure to remember that the money is being withdrawn like any other automatically-paid bill.
Your donations are your donations
Unfortunately, you can’t help everyone, so make your donations mean something to you by donating to charities that are important to you. If you find yourself without the financial means to help, think about donating your time instead. There are plenty of ways to make a difference in your community.
Being choosy in what cause you support is okay. In the world we live in today, any and all help you give can make a difference.
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