As the clock runs out on 2016, most charities are in over-drive as these last few weeks are considered to be the most active time for charity donations. In fact, some charities receive about one-third of their overall contributions in the last quarter of the year.
So it’s not your imagination that from the kettle ringers in front of the grocery store, to the GoFundMe postings on Facebook, you are being inundated with opportunities to make decisions that can greatly impact issues you care about, in addition to providing a tax deduction for your federal income taxes.
So it’s a win/win, except when it’s overwhelming.
First determine which charities most closely align with your values and try to commit to causes that are important to you all year round, such as: Feeding Children, Animal Rights, Freedom of Speech, Ending Sexual Slavery, Refugee Outreach, Human and Civil Rights
Once you’ve narrowed down the field, here are some tips to help make you a smarter donor by making sure your money goes where it can do the most good.
- The Better Business Bureau’s Start With Trust website keeps track of complaints against nonprofits, just as it does for businesses. A nonprofit that displays the BBB logo on its site has passed a rigorous screening process from the BBB.
- The BBB Wise Giving Alliance helps donors make informed giving decisions and promotes high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. It produces reports about national charities, evaluating them against comprehensive Standards for Charity Accountability. BBB WGA does not rank charities, but rather seeks to assist donors in making informed judgments about those that solicit their support. Evaluations are done without charge to the charity and are posted for free public access on org.
- GuideStar lists more than a million nonprofits in its database, all of which have met IRS criteria for exempt organizations. You can check here to make sure your charity is a 501(c)(3), and examine its latest tax form.
- Charity Navigator ranks charities based on their efficiency, transparency and accountability. The rating agency gives charities up to four stars, providing an easy way to find the organizations where your contributions will be safe and effective.
- Great Nonprofits provides user reviews of nonprofits, which can give you a more personal view of what real people, who either donate or receive services, think about a particular nonprofit. The site is particularly useful in identifying local charities, as it’s broken down into cities and filtered by issue.
- Check that a charity is properly registered to solicit in your state by visiting the website of the appropriate state charity registration office, which is usually a division of the state’s office of the Attorney General or the Secretary of State’s About 40 states require such registration in order for a charity to solicit funds.
Once you’ve selected your charity to support, add some cash to your budget to help with emergency giving. After any disaster, the needs continue long through the recovery period and your continued support to that nonprofit could truly be a matter of life or death.