Tips for Last Minute Gifts to Charities

Holiday giving is strong this year, U.S. charity officials report. “It seems to be a phenomenal year,” said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, according to the Associated Press. “Donor fatigue is something not many charities are seeing.”

The primary motivation for holiday giving is love for an organization and its work, Tony Martignetti, manager of Planned Giving Advisors told the New York Daily News. “But I think a close second is the tax benefit,” for those who itemize.

Trent Stamp, president of CharityNavigator.com, advises giving to a small local charity where the money will have greater impact, and focusing on one or two charities. “It’s important to diversify when you buy stocks, but if you do that when you donate, you become inefficient and ineffective,” Stamp told the Daily News.

And don’t forget that many employers give matching donations.

Those who don’t have cash to give right now can donate household items that are no longer needed but in good condition to a thrift shop and claim an estimated value for tax purposes. Goods valued over $250 will require a receipt. You may also donate stock at its current value and not pay any capital gains tax, Martignetti said.

Numerous web sites allow users to make donations without giving any money. Most are for-profit organizations that guarantee to provide mammograms, free books, or food and shelter to those in need, if you click on their advertising. While the amounts of money raised this way are not large, clicking takes little time and should help someone, Ted Hart, president of ePhilanthropy.com, told SmartMoney.com.

Other web sites allowing users to do good while clicking are Goodsearch.com and Givesmart.com, according to a report on SmartMoney.com. Goodsearch plans to direct half of its advertising revenue to charities that users specify from a drop down menu of over 900,000 charities and schools, Ken Ramburg, co-founder of the site says. GiveSmart.com, a web site that runs news from the Associated Press, doesn’t require users to click or search, but donates revenues from news browsing on the site. Founder Brian Carozzi estimates that users can contribute about $20 to $25 in a year that way.

Before you write out a check to any organization, you should look up the charity’s web site, the Motley Fool recommends. Consider the size of the organization and the percent of money that goes to overhead, executive compensation and board qualifications where that information is available. Finally, think about whether the money is going to a long-term solution or to a quick fix.

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