Maximizing Your Charitable Giving This Holiday Season

November 29, 2012
Think before you give this season, to avoid contributing to a charity that isn’t effective, or worse, a scam. Use these 7 steps to maximize your donations:

Check charity effectiveness
Check evaluation sites like BBB’s, Charity Navigator and GuideStar.

Watch out for scams
Be cautious about links claiming to direct you to a charity’s site, for example.

Skip the middlemen
Experts say the most effective way to donate is still to write a check directly to the charity. Pay with a credit card and the charity usually loses a 2% to 3% processing fee to the card issuer. Some fundraising sites take larger cuts, and a for-profit telemarketing firm takes out as much as half of your donation.

Review charitable “gifts”
If a retailer or product manufacturer pledges part of your purchase will go to charity, take a hard look at the details. Better offers will note a specific dollar amount of percentage of the purchase price that goes to the charity.

Look for charitable ‘deals’
With hot competition for donation dollars in a holiday season following a Presidential election and Hurricane Sandy, many organizations are offering to match at least part of all donations as part of a fundraising challenge.

Click to give, don’t text
Giving online is still the most cost-effective way to donate—it saves the expense of stamps and envelope openers, and also provides the organization with donors’ contact information so it can follow up. Plus, as New Year’s Eve approaches, online donations may be the saving grace for last-minute givers trying to sneak in extra tax deductions before the end of the year.