After we express our thankfulness and eat lots of pie, it’s time to move to the season of generosity.
Despite changes in the tax code that make it less beneficial to donate to charities, this is the year to give more, not less. Almost every charitable group or foundation is keeping its fingers crossed that Americans will be generous this year, even if the higher standard deduction means less incentive to itemize and write off charitable gifts.
Fires, floods and more have wreaked havoc on our neighbors. Cancer and Alzheimer’s, hunger and animal cruelty haven’t taken a holiday this past year. This is the time to consider how to make sure your gifts go to a worthy organization.
It’s a mistake to simply write a check to an organization based on its name. Of the many charities with the word “cancer” in their title, you will find that some take more than two-thirds of the money they raise and spend it on fundraising costs. That includes salaries to those running the organization.
It’s easy to do the research. Every registered charity must file IRS form 990 with the government. But you don’t have to comb through them for details and ratings comparisons.
Just go to CharityNavigator.org, the largest database (nearly 10,000 charities) that rates potential charity recipients based on their financial health, accountability, and transparency.
Each charity gets an overall score, and a star rating. The charity ratings look at total assets, payments to affiliates for marketing services and CEO pay. Note: it’s not wrong to have a high-paid executive team, if they are delivering results and managing a large asset base.
You also can designate your gift to the Charity Navigator Giving Basket and your dollars will be automatically spread to several worthy organizations. You’ll get one tax receipt and can even set up recurring, automatic donations.
Look for ways to make your charitable dollars do double-duty. At this time of year, many charities announce matching gifts made by generous donors. Also, many corporations will match employee contributions, so be sure to ask the HR department if this program exists at your workplace.
This year Facebook and PayPal have teamed up to match donations made through Facebook to nonprofits up to a total of $7 million. You simply create a fundraiser by selecting from a list of available nonprofits.
This is a great way to call attention and support to charities in which you have a personal interest. It lets your friends publicly show their support as you fight a disease or just respect your choice of charities.
There also are several apps that make giving a breeze.
ShareTheMeal fights global hunger through the United Nations World Food Program. Tap the app on your cellphone and give 50 cents. That will feed one child for a day. The Charity Miles app is all about health and helping others. You run, walk, bike, etc., and a small amount of money gets donated from a corporate sponsor to a charity you choose for each mile completed.
If you’ve had a good year, give generously to those who were less fortunate. You’ll be glad you did. And that’s The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and the author of four best-selling books, including "The Savage Truth on Money." She responds to questions on her blog at TerrySavage.com.