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Tue, Feb. 18

Donating to charity is a personal process

Giving to a favorite charity is a worthy way to end the year.

For most people, it makes sense to give at the end of the year so their money can earn interest throughout the year before they donate it.

As you consider how much to give, the first thing to remember is that everyone’s financial situation is personal. For most people, donations don’t exceed 2 percent of their total annual income, but decide for yourself whether this works for you. Those who tithe often donate 10 percent or more, but this is best planned and saved up for during the year.

When determining your budget, go with an amount that you can handle without dipping into your emergency fund or retirement savings. If your giving budget is smaller than you’d like, never fear. There are plenty of ways to get creative and give in non-cash ways — time, services or other in-kind gifts.


When you consider where you might give your money, think about your top priorities. Are you passionate about the environment or saving a particular type of animal? Has something happened in your personal life that inspires you to donate to a particular cause, such as searching for a cancer cure or mentoring a group of at-risk youth? Also, would you rather give to a cause that has a local impact or a global one? If you’re looking for a worthy local cause, you can do searches by topic, location or both on sites such as Charity Navigator ( or Charity Watch (

Consider whether you want to give to a big charity or a small one. At a large organization, your individual contribution might be one of thousands, but the combined impact could affect great change. On the other hand, a small organization may not have a broad impact, but your gift alone could make the difference for one individual or family.

Keeping those things in mind, conduct your search on the previously listed sites for organizations whose goals align with yours. Then, head to the organizations’ individual websites to look at their programs and see if they do work in areas you feel passionate about. Also, pay attention to the holiday giving drives that they launch: Is there an end-of-year match that will double your dollars? Will you receive a nice calendar that will remind you of the organization throughout the year? Do you even see a type of donation that would make a great gift for someone?


Make sure that all the charities are proper 501(c)3 organizations, meaning that they are registered with the IRS as tax-exempt organizations. You can find out by searching for the organization in the IRS non-profit charities database, which has the complete list of organizations holding 501(c)3 status. If your chosen charity is not on the list, your contribution won’t be tax-deductible.

Lastly — and this is the trickiest thing to gauge overall — try to give to an organization that actually gets the results you seek. You can get a sense of effectiveness through the websites listed above as well as through the Better Business Bureau (, all of which rate charities based on factors such as how they spend their budgets, how much they spend to raise money and how transparent their finances are.

If you still feel you need more information to make a good decision, call the organization itself to find out what they are accomplishing in your area of interest, or if they have special holiday fundraising programs to which you can donate. Doing so will also help you feel sure that their work aligns with your own interests.

Sources for this article include, Better Business Bureau, and

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