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Making smart charitable decisions

I presented the topic of making smart charitable decisions to a group of smart, savvy businesswomen who wanted to know more about giving to charity. With the giving season coming soon, I thought it would be good to share some of these tips with my readers.

Think about the what:
What should I give?
There are more ways to make a gift than just check, cash and credit cards. Consider using: appreciated stocks, bonds and mutual funds; property (old clothes, household items, artwork, real estate, used cars); or beneficiary designations in life insurance policies, IRA's and other retirement plans. Most of these gifts are are simple to accomplish!

What can I support?
Donors can choose to make their gift to a specific program or purpose or to an organization's general fund. I personally like to give my annual gifts to the general operating fund. That way the organization can direct it to the area of greatest need at the time.

Think about the who:
Who can I give to?
Not all gifts are deductible and some may be subject to gift tax. Some ways to check:
1. Call your professional tax adviser.
2. Consult IRS Publication 526. It can be found at
3. Confirm the organization has a 501 (c)(3) designation. Is their designation current?
4. Gifts to individuals are not tax-deductible.

Who aligns with my beliefs or interests?
Think about the organizations you want to support. Does their mission and services align with what you believe in?

Who uses their dollars effectively?
1. Does the CEO's salary seem out of line with the organization's budget.
2. Do they spend too much on programs, administration and fundraising, but little on programs and services?
3. Does the organization do what it says it will do with the money?

Think about the where:
Where should I look for red flags?
The cost of certain fundraising events may have little or no charitable deduction. The charity should let you know if this is the case. If not, read IRS Publication 526 carefully about:
1. Raffle tickets and games of chance
2. Event tickets
3, Gifts where you get something in return such as a dinner, benefit, tickets, etc.

Where do I call if I don't want an organization to solicit me any longer?
There is no do not call registry for nonprofits. If you don't want to be solicited, you will have to "opt out" of future mailings, calls or email solicitations. You can often do this via the mailing, call or email. If not, call the charity directly and ask to be removed from their list.

Where can I learn more?


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