Monday, December 12, 2011

End of Year Charitable Giving

If you are like me, you can hardly believe that the end of the year is almost here.  In addition to thinking about the holidays, it is also a good time to review important financial matters, including your charitable gift plans. As the calendar year comes to a close, some donors are considering tax reduction strategies.  Giving is much more than tax brackets and charitable deductions – your gifts also provide a meaningful difference to the organizations who receives them. 

American’s are very giving people.  In fact, individuals in the United States contribute more than 80% of the funds raised by charities. For many, the end of the year is a time to express thanks for the blessings they have received in the past and to plan for the future.  It can also be a time for sharing with others.   

To help donors make wise decisions about contributing, the Council of Better Business Bureaus has developed some tips on charitable giving:

1) It is best to make your contribution with a check (not cash) which is made payable to the charity, not the individual collecting the donation. 
2) Keep records of your donation, such as receipts, cancelled checks, and bank statements, in order for you to document your charitable giving at tax time.
3) Be wary of names of organizations that closely resemble the name of a well known organization but are not affiliated.
4) Check out the organization before giving.  Always take time to ask who they are, what they are doing, and how they spend their funding.  A legitimate organization will be happy to answer your questions.
5) It is illegal to demand payment for unordered merchandise.  If items such as calendars, greeting cards, etc. are enclosed with an appeal letter and you did not order them, you are under no obligation to pay for or return the merchandise.

Many people are not aware that gifts other than cash can be given to non-profit organizations. Those that do donate gifts of securities, gifts of life insurance, gifts of retirement assets, charitable gift annuities and/or make a bequest can receive tax benefits for such planned giving.

We all have things we are grateful for, causes we believe in, and experiences that have enriched our lives.  In appreciation we donate time and money.  The end of the year offers an opportunity to reflect on those things we appreciate most and for many completing their charitable goals is a natural and satisfying part.

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