It’s a busy week for special days. Thursday: Thanksgiving, Friday: Black Friday, Saturday: Small business Saturday, Monday: Cyber Monday, and finally, Tuesday: Giving Tuesday. After so many days of stuffing our faces, entertaining family, and overspending, Giving Tuesday shifts the focus from gluttony and spending to giving as a holiday tradition. Let’s not forget to mention the year-end tax advantages of charitable contributions.
Giving Tuesday, “connects diverse groups of individuals, communities and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving (givingtuesday.org).” The Giving Tuesday movement started in 2012. I bet most of you receive emails, phone calls and other solicitations to support various charities on Giving Tuesday. Another important component of Giving Tuesday is using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to spread the word about giving, and encouraging others to give.
Giving Tuesday can be an excellent way to give back/give forward. However, I want to encourage you to think about giving mindfully and purposefully. Not all charities are created equal, nor do they spend donated funds in the ways you may envision.
How can you best choose a charity or cause to give to on Giving Tuesday?
- Identify causes that are meaningful and important to YOU and your family.
What is important to you? For me, it’s supporting the college I attended, the beagles I rescued, and my patients. This helps to guide how and what I will give to each cause.
- Think local and small – it may bring more bang for the buck!
National organizations may benefit from an entire budget just for fundraising and solicitation. Smaller, locally based charities, rely on word of mouth to raise funds. These micro level donations can make a big impact for your neighbors and the charities that support them.
You can also give through programs like Amazon Smile. Every time you make a purchase through smile.amazon.com, 0.5% of your purchase is donated by Amazon to a charitable organization of your choice (they partner with over 1 million organizations!). This makes donating easy for you. But remember, you cannot take the tax write off for that charitable donation, Amazon can.
- Do your research.
Before you give, research groups that support your local community and the causes that are meaningful to you. Charitable organizations are required to make public their tax information, including how much they take in, spend on administration, overhead and salaries. You should be able to access this information on the charity’s website. If you can’t, it may be a red flag. Find out what the money is used for and be sure it is what you want to support. A list of the 50 worst charities to donate to is available here.
- Give outside the box.
Giving can also mean giving back through volunteering. Inquire into volunteer opportunities – perhaps preparing meals for the homebound, driving patients to medical appointments, or providing respite to a caregiver and companionship to a patient. These actions provide support that is not measureable in dollars.
Many charities also maintain “wish lists” of items needed to support their day to day activities. For example, an animal rescue may have a list of dog food and pet toys needed for animals in foster care. You can purchase those on behalf of the organization and have those items are shipped directly to the charity. Be sure to get a record/receipt FROM THE ORGANIZATION of your purchase on their behalf to support you tax records. This is the only way donations of goods on behalf of a charity are tax deductible.
- Give securely and keep good records of your donations.
When giving via online portals, be sure you are on a secure site. These are typically indicated by a url that begins with “https.” Using a credit card can also protect you should you need to contest a charge. Keeping records is key for any charitable donations you want to claim as deductions when you file taxes, so be sure to get receipts for all contributions. If you donate your time, this is not deductible, but parking and mileage to support this volunteer work is tax deductible.
- Share your choice to give, but only if you feel comfortable doing so.
If you use social media, you can share your contributions via these platforms. This helps to spread the mission of the charity as well as encourages your friends and family to give to groups that have meaning and are important to you. Using hashtags (#) like #givingtuesday, also impacts metrics gathered by the charities to support their social media presence and impact factor.
- Don’t feel obligated to give
Just because you get free address labels or personalized note pads doesn’t mean you have to give to that charity. Giving is a choice that should be thoughtful, meaningful, and impactful – not something you feel you have to do.
You will no doubt receive many pleas for donations tomorrow, so do your research now and have a plan for how you will give smart on #givingtuesday