Your guide to charitable giving

The holiday season – and the end of the tax year – motivates many consumers to donate money to their favorite charities. In fact, the average person makes 24 percent of their annual donations between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to Charity Navigator. And after a two-year drop in charitable contributions –  which has been the hardest hit those organizations have taken in more than forty years – the trend is finally beginning to turn around, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

So with more than half a million federally recognized charities soliciting contributions, chances are high that you will be asked to make a donation this year. The following are some tips to ensure that you are giving wisely:

  • Ask questions. Request identification from the solicitor and read written information provided. Be certain that the organization has a clear mission and identifiable goals.
  • Be wary of high-pressure appeals. For example, be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge that you do not remember making. Legitimate charities should not intimidate you into making an on-the-spot donation.
  • Do your homework. Before making a donation, call the charity to find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. The Better Business Bureau offers a great guide for donors to help ensure you’re giving to a legitimate organization.
  • Do not give cash. For security and tax record purposes, pay by check. Write the official name of the charity on your check and always ask for a receipt in return.

For additional help selecting a charitable organization, visit CharityNavigator.org. A little research up front will make sure that your dollars are put to good use.

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

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