Money Matters: Year-end giving tips

Education Resources,

The end of the year is a time of gift-giving and for many nonprofit organizations, a busy time for donations. Some charities see half or more of annual donation revenue during December.

Help your audience make smart giving choices with some tips for year-end giving.

Budget for your giving
Consider giving regularly throughout the year, which can help maintain a household budget and helps nonprofits plan with a regular revenue stream. For those who have saved giving until the end of the year, consider the causes you care about and pick a few to invest in. It’s easy to give piecemeal in response to various solicitations, but that can leave an unexpected dent in your bank account.

It’s also important to consider the tax implications of giving. When donating to a 501(c)3, most donations are tax-deductible. But recent tax changes mean it may be less advantageous to itemize deductions. For some, it could be worth grouping donations into larger amounts every two years. Some may find that an additional charitable contribution could mean a larger tax advantage. Maximize contributions (and get a head start on taxes) by running some quick numbers before making December donations.

Do your research
Unfortunately, the season of giving can also be a season of scams. Help your audience donate wisely by checking for reports of charitable scams in your area.

You can also help educate donors to make smart giving decisions with some background on types of fundraisers and charities. For example, are there risks to donating to individual fundraising efforts on platforms like GoFundMe?

For many donors, giving to 501(c)3 nonprofits can be a good option. These organizations are required to report to the IRS and can lose their designation if they aren’t really working toward their stated missions. And organizations like Charity Navigator and Guidestar share evaluations of registered nonprofits and have been improving their measures of effectiveness and impact. For example, they offer information about organizations’ transparency, services and management in addition to overhead radio, which when used alone is an ineffective measure of impact.

Give effectively
Talk to a nonprofit fundraiser about what kind of donations is most helpful, and you’re likely to hear that cash is best and specifically requested items are next. Cash gifts allow nonprofits to use their professional expertise to put your dollars to work most effectively. If cash doesn’t feel quite personal enough, check for a wish list or opportunities to volunteer. Importantly, don’t donate dirty, broken or unusable items. It can feel good to get rid of something you no longer use, but it only takes a nonprofit time, effort and often money to dispose of donated items that can’t be reused.

Weekly Money Matters personal finance content for your newsroom is sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education