As the holiday season begins and we reflect on all the things we’re thankful for, it’s never a bad idea to close out the year by donating to charity. But choosing the right charity can be a difficult task. Which one does the most with your money? Who are they helping? How do you measure the impact of their services? Make sure to give with your head as well as your heart when you decide to make a charitable contribution.  

Know Your Values

Before opening up your checkbook, make sure you really know why you want to donate. What matters to you? What issues do you want to affect? Do you want the impact to be local or international? No matter if you’re passionate about higher education for girls in developing countries or helping solve the homeless crisis in your neighborhood, determine what causes you feel comfortable giving to.

Do a Background Check on the Organization

Once you know your values, start doing research on nonprofits that match those priorities. There are plenty of helpful online databases that can provide everything from an organization’s IRS forms to a certified rating so you can feel confident knowing how and where they spend your money.

At this stage in the process you really want to be thinking about the cold facts and not get caught up in the emotions of donating to a cause you care about. Browse each organization’s website and check to see if they have their mission, goals, and concrete statistics readily available. A reputable nonprofit should be transparent with their accomplishments so you’ll know exactly how your money will be put to use.

If you’re researching multiple charities at a time, be sure to gather this information for each one so you can compare. Do the higher-ups get paid an exorbitant salary? How many people are directly affected by their work? What criteria do they use to measure success? Once you have all the facts laid out in front of you, it’s time for one more round of research before making the final decision.

Speak Directly with the Charity

After narrowing down your choices, either talk on the phone with the charity or set up a tour to go visit their office in person. Even if you’re making a one-time donation and don’t plan to give money on a consistent basis, you want to know your hard-earned cash is in good hands.

Nonprofit organizations have development departments and donor relations teams for this exact reason. If you speak with a representative and don’t get a good feeling, it’s smart to trust your gut even if your research speaks to its credibility.

At the end of the day, most people don’t want to open up their wallets for bar graphs and spreadsheets. They also need to have an emotional motivation to give, and while cold facts should play a big part in the decision, your attitude toward the organization could be affected once you actually interact with them.

Keep Tabs on Your Donation

Making a charitable donation is a win-win situation. Not only will you feel happy knowing you’re doing good in the world, but the people affected by your gift will be better off than they were before. Once you’ve signed the check, keep tabs on how your money is being spent.

Many organizations will send you updates on their work. If your donation helped a specific person or community, it’s likely they’ll attach photos of the recipients so you can see your money at work. These are great little reminders that will keep you open to turning your donation into a tradition.

It’s also important to keep a receipt of your donation if you plan to deduct it come tax season. While your motivation for philanthropy should be centered on the good you’re doing, it doesn’t hurt that your taxes could get lowered as well. For any questions you may have about charitable tax deductions, give our team of experts a call at (888) 684-4792.

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