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Charitable Donations: A Gift Giver’s Primer

Charitable Donations: A Gift Giver’s Primer

by Anne Kasdorf

From the editor: 'Tis the season for gift guides, but with all the turmoil of 2016, it feels like we need some heartfelt holiday altruism more than material goods. If your family is among the many who are swapping presents for donations this year, check out this primer for selecting an apropos donation recipient. Or if you're simply looking for a last-minute gift idea, a donation is a great option since it necessitates neither shipping nor waiting in line.

 

Charitable Donations: A Gift Giver’s Primer

Charitable giving has skyrocketed post-election, and as we inch oh-so-tentatively towards 2017, nonprofits are making their year-end asks. This ensures vital operating dollars for them and means last-minute tax write-offs for you. With the holidays just around the corner here, put all that holiday traffic-wrangling, extra-to-get-it-delivered-by-the-24th, my-lane’s-closed-now energy into making donations to worthy causes in a recipient’s name. The Urban Institute reports that there are over 1.4 million registered 501c3 nonprofit organizations in the United States alone, so as long as you don’t make a donation to The Human Fund, with a little bit of research your gift will be put to meaningful use. A few things to ask as you ‘shop’ around:

What’s the mission? A charity is driven by its mission statement. It’s why they do the work that they do. Check out its programs to get a concrete picture of how the mission makes an impact on its constituency.

Where do your donation dollars go? An organization may receive restricted and unrestricted funds. Restricted funds are typically earmarked for a specific program to ensure the work can be carried out, but unrestricted dollars put towards general operating expenses can pay staff, update the website, buy stamps and cover everything that falls in between to make a huge difference in daily operations.

What is the process for making a donation? You’re still likely bearing the brunt of giving your mailing address to Seventeen back in middle school with an endless stack of charitable giving letters and cat-themed address labels piling up at your parents’ house. Online giving is accessible and convenient, so there’s no need for Business Reply Mail. Donating via an organization’s website provides an instant receipt or donation acknowledgment. 

How do I choose a charity? Aside from some Mike Pence/Planned Parenthood-style irony, you may consider selecting an organization that matches the recipient’s interests. If they’re excited about helping that charity, it may translate to future help for a sector that--now more than ever--could really use our support. So whether it’s climate change, immigration, civil liberties or one of countless other concerns that face our country, the list of organizations is vast. Here’s a quick brainstorm of ideas to get you started on making those pairings:

 

For your media-savvy brother-in-law

 

For your mom, who remembers the 70s

 

For your high school-teaching sister

 

For your outdoor-loving dad

 

For the new mom

 

For your aunt who works in the nonprofit sector

 

For your socially and globally conscious best friend

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