Mixed Bag Monday – Charitable Donations

In the spirit of trying to have some good come from , I thought that this week’s Mixed Bag Monday feature would focus on some of the good you can do in life, particularly the good you can do through charities.  I realize full well that I’ve discussed charities quite a bit already on this website, in no small part because I feel that one of the best things that you can do with your money (or at least, a portion of your money) is use it to help improve someone else’s life.

But, charitable donations are not always as easy as finding someone who could use a helping hand and giving them some dough.  No, alas, life can’t be that simple, it seems, and so this guide will attempt to answer some of the big questions that might arise when it comes time for you to try to help others with your giving.  It can be tricky, yes, but in the end, it’s wonderful to know that you are helping others with the contributions you make.

Q: How Do I Find Worthwhile Charities?

A: That depends on what you consider ‘worthwhile’.  Sorry to get all Clinton-esque with my answer, but people have different standards as to what makes a charity worthwhile.  You might consider one charity a worthwhile place to devote some money, while your neighbor would not want to donate to that charity if their life depended on it.  What you can do to help narrow down the list of good charities out there (and make sure to avoid the bad ones) is follow the advice I gave on ‘Choosing Charities’, to make sure you find ones you consider worthy.

And of course, charitable relays are both good, and good for you.

Q: How Much Should I Give to Charitable Causes?

A: That’s another tricky one.  It depends on what you earn, what you can afford, and how much you WANT to donate.  A good goal to set (and the goal I try to follow) is to give 10% of your gross income.  That said, I can understand that, depending on your financial situation, income, and expenses, trying to give that much could end up with YOU being the one who needs help.  The best plan in such cases is to give what you can and try to increase how much you give as your income increases.

Q: In What Way Will My Taxes Be Affected By Charitable Giving?

A: Alright, sticking with US taxes (because I am an American, after all), you are able to deduct the amount you contribute to charity from what you owe in taxes.  A few caveats, though; the first one is that you need to itemize your deduction to qualify.  If you take the standard deduction (or if the standard deduction is your itemized deductions), you won’t lower your taxes with donations.  You also need to make sure that the organization to which you donate is considered a charitable organization for tax purposes, and of course, keep a record of your donation.

Q: Will My Giving Really Help?

A: That’s certainly a deep, and probably unanswerable, question.  It depends on the type of organization and their goals.  Chances are, your donation will not the make or break factor that, for example, determines whether breast cancer is cured or poverty is eradicated in this country.  But, it is possible that you could make the difference in one or more lives, if only a tiny bit, and as a result, I’d say that giving to charity can definitely be worthwhile.  Just make sure to find the right charity for you.

Q: What Charities Would You Recommend?

A: There’s so many good ones, it’s hard for me to narrow it down to just a few when it comes time to make my own donations.  I would start by looking around at your local community, seeing if there are food banks, homeless shelters, or churches that could use your help. Giving locally will help to ensure that it is your friends and neighbors who’ll benefit from your generosity.  You can (and should) also take advantage of services like Just Give to find worthwhile national and regional charities.  Ultimately, though, the choice is yours.

There you have it, plenty of advice on choosing a good charity.  Good luck, enjoy, and remember to try to help those less fortunate.

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