Tips on Volunteering

1/5/2002

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Volunteering your time to a nonprofit organization or charitable cause can be personally rewarding and just as important as a cash contribution. Nevertheless, it is wise for potential volunteers to consider several factors before making a commitment.

If you are not already, make sure you become familiar with the charity's activities. Ask for written information about the charity's programs, finances and governance. Make certain you are comfortable with their fund raising methods and expenditure of funds.

Depending on the circumstances, volunteering can involve a variety of activities. Not all volunteer activities involve directly assisting those in need. Many charities need help with fund raising and administrative activities. If you are assisting with fund raising, you many want to verify that the charity is appropriately registered with your state government's charity registration office (usually a division of the state's office of the attorney general).

Some volunteering requires a commitment from the individual in terms of completing a special training program or devoting a scheduled number of hours each week. The value of your time in volunteering is not deductible as a charitable donation on your federal income tax. However, some out-of-pocket expenses are deductible (such as transportation costs), if they directly relate to your volunteer activities and you have records to substantiate the value.

Some organizations can make use of special expertise. Retired business executives, attorneys, health professionals, and other experts, can some times be put to immediate use at certain charitable organizations.

If you are asked to assist with door-to-door appeals, be aware of the fiscal responsibilities involved. For example, for security and record keeping purposes, it is best not to collect cash. Ask for a check made out to the full official name of the organization and promptly mail the collected donations to the charity.

If you are considering volunteering with a local or regional charity, contact the Better Business Bureau serving your area to find out if they have information on file about the organization.

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