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The “Season of Giving” is approaching fast. This six week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is the busiest time of year for charities and donations.

Americans gave almost $400 billion dollars in donations of money, toys, food and clothing last year alone.  To make the most of your donation consider these tips:

  1. Choose wisely: There are 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the US with so many options you want to choose wisely.
    1. Research how the charity uses donations. Find out the charities mission, leaders of the organization, their accomplishments and their future plans.
    2. Find out how much of your donation dollars are being used help the mission verses administration cost.
    3. Be cautious of what information you give a charity including social security numbers, bank account and credit card information.
  2. Budget: We all want to give back but it is important to stay within our means. Review your budget, how much can you afford to give and still meet all of your other obligations.  Never feel pressured to give more than you can afford.
  3. Alternatives to cash donations: When cash is tight consider other alternatives. Charities need cash but they can also use help in other ways.
    1. Volunteering your time is just as giving. It takes lots of man hours to run an organization and your volunteered time saves charities on administrative cost.
    2. Donate items instead of cash. During your research find out what items are needed by the charity such as school supplies, toys, food and or clothing.
  4. Track your donations: It is a good idea to keep a record of your donations.  Record keeping should include donation amount, date of the donation and the name of the organization.  Donations may be tax deductible.  For more information talk to your tax advisor, financial advisor or go to IRS Publication 526, charitable contributions.
  5. Teach the gift of giving: If you have children or grandchildren get them involved. Let them help decide on the charity and help them with the decision process. Explain why it is important to give back and how the giving impacts others. Find organizations where they can volunteer with you.