Giving Tips This Holiday Season
The holidays are a time for many people to reach out to those who are less fortunate. Additionally, donors need to make their end-of-year giving decisions by December 31 to qualify for a tax deduction in this calendar year. As a result, half of all charitable donations for the entire year will be made between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
Despite the lending crisis weakening the economy and the retail industry's prediction for soft sales, we anticipate that this holiday season's charitable giving could be record-setting, with individual donors exceeding $100 billion in charitable gifts. Yet, all of this generosity will do little to improve our world unless we all commit to the pursuit of responsible and informed philanthropy. Charity Navigator offers the following guidelines to ensure your holiday contributions are well-spent.
· Help Those Hurt By the Lending Crisis: As the credit crisis continues to take its toll on the overall economy, we expect human services charities - groups such as food banks, rescue missions and utility assistance charities - to see an increase in the demand for their programs and services. Historically, one of the least-funded types of charities, human service non-profits will need an influx of contributions if they are to meet the growing needs in their communities.
· Examine Each Charity's Spending Habits: Take the time to find out how much of your donation will actually go to the charity's mission. The vast majority of the charities rated by Charity Navigator are able to spend less than 10% of their budget on fundraising costs, less than 15% on administrative costs, and at least 75% on the programs and services they exist to provide. Make sure the charities you support meet this benchmark.
· Give Without Strings Attached: Once you've identified a few well-run charities that match your philanthropic interests, trust them to determine how best to spend your contribution. Often, donors like to designate their contributions for specific projects and purposes. This is fine for disaster giving, but it's also a sign that you don't trust the charity to spend the money where it can be best used. Don't be the roadblock in your favorite charity's quest to do good work. Take the time to research your charity so that you trust them, and can give an unrestricted gift, leaving the group the the flexibility to respond to changing demands for its services.
· Give Online: No one likes to think about taxes, especially during the holidays. But if you want to deduct your charitable contributions on your 2007 tax return, you have until December 31st to make your donations. When you give online at Charity Navigator, through our partnership with Network for Good, you have the luxury of waiting until the last minute, knowing that not only will you be provided an instant receipt, but your giving records are maintained in one place, making your life easier at tax time and when you want to give again.
· Avoid Telemarketers: Even if you signed up for the Federal 'do-not-call' list, chances are your dinner is regularly interrupted by a charity seeking your support. The calls, conducted by professional fundraisers who typically keep 65 to 95 cents of every dollar they raise, are intrusive but not illegal since nonprofits are exempt from following the 'do-not-call' rules. Never give over the phone.