NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Charitable Giving

Charitable Giving

Partially due to holiday spirit and partially due to the upcoming end of the year for tax deadlines, December is the month when people are the most likely to pull out their checkbooks for charity.  According to Giving USA, a research institute that publishes data and trends on charitable giving, Americans contributed more than $298.42 billion to charities in 2011. Another survey describes how one-third of the entire year’s online donations are made in December.

Before you donate, settle in with some hot chocolate and cookies and research the charities you are considerin


Make sure that you understand the charity’s mission.  On websites and in literature for nonprofits, vague, lofty rhetoric abounds.  Groups might pledge to “aid the impoverished nationwide” or “eradicate disease.” And that’s fine, as long as that ambitious language is accompanied by specific actions and results.   Legitimate charities typically give detailed program descriptions on their websites which means you should expect to find what goals have been achieved by those programs in the past; how many people are served by the charity and how a potential client qualifies to receive a service.
Verify the group’s nonprofit status.  You want to donate to a charity that has been granted a 501(c)(3) designation by the Internal Revenue Service. Why? This means that the donations that the group receives are used for charitable purposes; that your gifts to the organization are tax-deductible; that the group makes financial information public; and that strict rules govern how much it can spend to lobby the government.

Consider accessing a free report of the charity of your choice at www.give.org. And if your charity is not listed, you can request a review.  The review gives details on the charity’s organizational structure and how your contribution will be spent.  Most charities must disclose their financial records as a matter of legal procedure. Check into these carefully; some “charities” are in truth only giving a small percentage of donated money to their claimed cause.

Decide if you want to give to a local charity, a nationwide, or international organization. Your community or those nearby may be in need of your help. Giving locally can improve the world of your daily life, and gives you great opportunities to donate time instead of or along with money.

Careful research will give you peace of mind, knowing that your money is going to help your preferred cause.

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