Giving Back (and Keeping Track): 4 Tips for Donating
There are many meaningful ways of giving to community organizations—volunteering your time, providing in-kind services, donating clothing or home items—the sky is the limit on what you can give, and what you get in return. But for many, when a monetary gift is part of the equation, having a process and a plan in place can help structure your giving and make it more rewarding (and manageable) for you. Check out these 4 tips for being a more strategic, savvy, and satisfied giver!
1. Start with researchAccording to the Maine Association of Nonprofits' annual report "Adding up Impact 2017," there were over 6,400 Maine 501(c)(3) nonprofits registered with the IRS in 2014 - and this number does not even include the many churches or smaller associations and nonprofit corporations that don’t register with the IRS. That’s a lot of nonprofits to consider - and even more if you have national or international organizations on your mind, too.
To narrow down your own list, consider questions such as: Does the mission align with your interests? Are there other ways you can give AND get involved, like volunteering? Do you have a personal or geographic connection to the organization? Websites such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and Charity Watch can be helpful throughout your research process, but don't hesitate to give an organization a call! Most nonprofits would be more than happy to talk to you about their work, their impact, and why you should consider donating or volunteering.
Be cautious when you receive donation requests from telephone solicitors. This can be (but is not always) a scam to get your credit card information over the phone. To be sure, check the organization’s website and official nonprofit designation on the IRS website.
2. Make a planThere are many different ways people strategize on charitable giving. Some decide to wait until the last week of December to make all of their annual gifts; others set up monthly online giving to their charities of choice; and others give, only when solicited, to the same nonprofits year after year. No matter the approach, you should go into each new year with a plan that works for you and your budget. Ask yourself: How much do I want to budget for charitable giving this year? Do I plan to increase my giving to organizations I supported last year? Is it better for me to give a little each month, or a larger amount all at once?
Get creative and make more out of your charitable gift. For example, does the nonprofit run an annual matched-gift campaign? If so, the organization could receive double or triple your contribution, depending on the conditions of the campaign. Consider waiting and making your annual gift during that time.
Once you have a strategy that determines not only your budget and giving timeline, but also the organizations you know you want to support, you will feel more prepared and satisfied when making contributions.
3. Keep track along the wayDo your future self a favor and set up a file for your charitable giving each year. Save receipts for all charitable gifts, regardless of the amount! This will help you keep track of your giving, which will also help you stay organized during tax season. Next year, you’ll be relieved to have a record of last year’s giving for a reference.
If you’ve volunteered, check and see if your employer collects volunteer hours. The time, energy, and expertise you give to nonprofits can really add up, and employers frequently like to track this information for sharing with the community.