Budget for giving. Plan your philanthropic activities right into your budget just as you would other financial obligations.
Be an informed giver. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re asked to give, including the specific name of the solicitor and his or her relationship to the organization, how much of your gift will be used for overhead, the specific project the money will go toward, and other important information. Give only when you feel comfortable that your dollars will be going to support an organization you know and believe in. Network for Good provides information on over 850,000 charitable organizations from the GuideStar database, so you can make an informed decision on the organizaiton you decide to help.
Keep the right records. For gifts of less than $250, a canceled check or credit card statement is sufficient for IRS requirements. For larger gifts, you’ll want to get a properly worded receipt from the charitable organization as a confirmation of your tax deductible contribution.[…]
Be aware of how much is really tax deductible. If you receive a premium in exchange for your gift (such as a book or a dinner), the amount of your tax deduction is reduced by the fair market value of the premium. You can turn down the incentive item if you wish to claim a deduction for the full amount of your gift. Ask the receiving organization for more details.
Ask about matching gifts. Many employers match gifts made by their employees or make grants to organizations recommended by employees. Be sure to ask your company how it can help your gift go even further.
Remember, your gift can be confidential. If you prefer to have your gift remain confidential, you should let the organization know. You can expect the charitable organization to honor your request.
Consider alternative forms of giving. Don’t overlook the benefits to you and your cause received from bequests, charitable gift annuities, gifts in kind, endowments and many other creative forms of giving. Ask your tax advisor or attorney to help you make the best plan for you and your family.
Volunteer! In addition to financial support, consider giving your time and skills. Not only will you help the organization, but you’ll also make contacts, hone your skills, and learn more about the charitable cause to which you’re committing your time and money.
Don’t forget you have the right to say no. Give generously when you can, but if you’re unsure or feel uncomfortable or if an organization simply falls outside your plan for giving don’t be afraid to say no. Or, ask for more information and take more time to think before making your decision.
Be a proactive giver! You don’t have to wait to be asked. Plan a giving strategy in advance. Contact the charitable organizations of your choice to discuss how your gifts can be most effectively used and help make a difference in your community. If you would like to learn more about ensuring the safety of online donations, read 10 tips for giving safely online .