Make sure ev­ery dol­lar you give to char­ity counts

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - Nathaniel Sillin Prac­ti­cal Money Skills

De­cid­ing to make a char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tion can arise from a de­sire to help oth­ers, a pas­sion­ate com­mit­ment to a cause or the aim to give back to a group that once helped you or a loved one. Choos­ing which or­ga­ni­za­tions you want to sup­port can be dif­fi­cult. There are over a mil­lion pub­lic char­i­ties in the United States ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Char­i­ta­ble Statis­tics, and ev­ery dol­lar you give to Char­ity A is a dol­lar you might not be able to match for Char­ity B.

Whether it’s a friend’s char­ity run or sup­port­ing an an­i­mal res­cue, of­ten the de­ci­sion to give comes down to a mix of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal fac­tors. You have to de­ter­mine which causes are most im­por­tant to you, and with out­side help you can com­pare how ef­fec­tive var­i­ous char­i­ties are at us­ing their fund­ing.

Many non-prof­its do in­cred­i­ble work, but it’s al­ways smart to ver­ify their claims. You can start your due dili­gence by dou­ble check­ing an or­ga­ni­za­tion’s tax­ex­empt sta­tus us­ing the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice’s (IRS) Ex­empt Or­ga­ni­za­tions Se­lect Check Tool. Once you ver­ify its non-profit sta­tus, you want to make sure it’s well run and makes a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact. There are sev­eral non-prof­its that eval­u­ate and

rate char­i­ties. You can find their guid­ance on­line and use it com­pare char­i­ties and in­form your gift­ing.

Some­times a spe­cific event rather than a gen­eral cause can spur you into ac­tion. When this hap­pens, if you want to be sure that your money goes to sup­port that par­tic­u­lar cause you might want to nar­row your search to char­i­ties that let you spec­ify how your do­na­tion will be used. Other­wise, your money might not di­rectly

sup­port those af­fected by the cri­sis.

Do­nat­ing to a non-profit with ef­fec­tive pro­grams and pro­cesses is the way to go if you’re try­ing to help as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, but you can also make con­tri­bu­tions to in­di­vid­u­als or fam­i­lies through a crowd-fund­ing web­site. There’s some­thing spe­cial about know­ing ex­actly who and how you’re help­ing, and they’ll ap­pre­ci­ate the aid from a stranger. Sim­i­larly, you can help en­trepreneurs by mak­ing a mi­cro­fi­nance loan through a non-profit. You can re­lend the money you’re paid back to con­tinue sup­port­ing

small busi­nesses.

If you’re look­ing for ways to in­crease your con­tri­bu­tion, ask your em­ployer if it has a match­ing pro­gram. Some com­pa­nies will dou­ble, or even triple, your gift to se­lect non­prof­its. If your com­pany doesn’t of­fer such a pro­gram, you could speak to your hu­man re­sources depart­ment or boss about es­tab­lish­ing one.

Third-par­ties also fund match­ing cam­paigns for char­i­ties. You can ask a char­ity if there’s a cam­paign run­ning and make sure your do­na­tion qual­i­fies. Un­less there’s a press­ing rea­son to make a do­na­tion

today, you may want to put your money aside and wait un­til a match­ing cam­paign starts.

You might be able to in­crease your fi­nan­cial im­pact with­out out­side help if you can claim a tax de­duc­tion for your do­na­tion. Cal­cu­late your tax sav­ings each year and put the money back into your char­ity fund. Do­nated-re­lated de­duc­tions can some­times be con­fus­ing, and you may want to check with a tax pro­fes­sional or look on­line for tips from the IRS.

Your char­i­ta­ble gift could be the start of a legacy of giv­ing among your

fam­ily. By mak­ing do­na­tions a reg­u­lar event dur­ing your chil­dren’s for­ma­tive years, you’re es­tab­lish­ing char­i­ta­ble giv­ing as a fam­ily value that they can take into their adult lives. To en­gage chil­dren, make a do­na­tion to sup­port a child’s fa­vorite cause and show them how the money makes a dif­fer­ence. For ex­am­ple, you could fol­low up a do­na­tion to a non-profit an­i­mal res­cue with a visit to the shel­ter to see how the money helps the staff take care of the an­i­mals. BOT­TOM LINE. >> Mak­ing a do­na­tion is one way to sup­port a cause you be­lieve in and en­sure your gift

has a mean­ing­ful im­pact. You can do this by hav­ing money avail­able when it’s needed, do­nat­ing to worth­while char­i­ties, look­ing for ways to in­crease your fi­nan­cial im­pact and pass­ing on a legacy of giv­ing.

This ar­ti­cle is in­tended to pro­vide gen­eral in­for­ma­tion and should not be con­sid­ered le­gal, tax or fi­nan­cial ad­vice. It’s al­ways a good idea to con­sult a tax or fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor for spe­cific in­for­ma­tion on how cer­tain laws ap­ply to your sit­u­a­tion and about your in­di­vid­ual fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion.

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