Those who want to qualify for a tax deduction for the current year, need to make their charitable donations by December 31st. Here are 6 ways to do it smartly.
Brace for impact.
Last year, Americans gave more than $389 billion to charity, with individual donations — versus corporate or foundation donations — representing about three-fourths of this total. And this year, as the economy continues to improve, we’re expected to give even more. American individuals and households will likely increase their giving by 3.0% in 2017, according to research from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.
As we’re giving more, many of us are no doubt wondering: How much of my money is going to the actual cause versus to things like administrative or fundraising costs? So Moneyish teamed up with Charity Navigator, a nonprofit that evaluates charitable organizations, to figure out which highly rated charities give the most money to the actual programs they’re supporting, versus administrative or fundraising efforts.
Here’s a list of Charity Navigator’s top 20 high-impact organizations — all of which give 99% of the money they receive to the cause and have high overall ratings, in terms of financial health, accountability and transparency. Giving 99% of the money you receive to the cause is exceptional — even in a world where most funds do go towards the cause: About seven in 10 charities give 75% or more to the cause and nine in 10 give 60% or more to the cause, Charity Navigator has found.
|Charity Name||Percentage of funds that go directly to the cause, versus administrative or fundraising costs|
|International Children’s Fund||99.70%|
|The Foodbank of Southern California||99.60%|
|CIS Development Foundation||99.50%|
|Matthew 25: Ministries||99.40%|
|Kids In Need Foundation||99.40%|
|Brother’s Brother Foundation||99.40%|
|Books For Africa||99.20%|
|Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma||99.20%|
|Christian Blind Mission International||99.20%|
|Midwest Food Bank, NFP||99.20%|
|World Medical Relief||99.20%|
|Feeding Tampa Bay||99.10%|
|Feeding America’s Hungry Children||99.10%|
|Caring Voice Coalition||99.00%|
|Foster Care to Success||99.00%|
Source: Charity Navigator
Still, it’s important to note that not all charities can reasonably give 85% or more of the money they get to program expenses — that’s money going right to the program/cause versus fundraising and administrative costs — and that allocating less to program expenses doesn’t mean the charity isn’t making a huge impact, says Sally Boulter, the senior engagement officer at ImpactAssets, a firm that focuses on investing that makes a difference.
No matter where you give money, it’s important to remember a few things about giving this holiday season, experts say.
Consider where you want to give, says Boulter. Ask yourself: “what is your personal mission– the causes you care about?” and also how you want to make a difference, she says. So, let’s say you care about animals — you’ll want to identify charities that focus on animals, and then look at how each of those organizations makes a difference in that field. If you want to change laws around animal rights, you’d likely give to a much different organization than if you want to make sure strays find nice homes.
Vet the charity. Websites can make figuring out if a charity is legit and solid pretty simple. Boulter says that sites like Charity Navigator (for those giving smaller gifts) and GuideStar (for those giving larger gifts) — both of which rate charitable organizations and give you information about them — are decent starting points for vetting charities.
Think about when to give. Boulter says you shouldn’t wait until late December to give. “Stores are not the only ones who are busy during this season. Charities, brokers and the post office are all running at capacity. If you want to get credit for your gift in 2017, it is best to do it early,” she says.
Make an even bigger impact. Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are teaming up to match up to $2 million in funds raised for charities on Giving Tuesday, which is November 28th. Here’s how you can make sure your donation gets matched; Facebook will also waive its usual fee for making donations.
See the impact of the charity’s work firsthand, says Susan Hartley Moss, the senior vice president at EMM Wealth. “Nothing can take the place of a site visit and seeing them in their own environment. Site visits are invaluable to the decision-making process,” she says.
Consider the tax implications. Be sure to note charitable donations on your tax forms. If you itemize your deductions, there is a federal income tax deduction for charitable gifts — and some states also allow charitable deductions, explains Carol Kroch, the national director of philanthropic planning at Wilmington Trust. Plus, if you’ve own stock for more than a year that has appreciated, you may want to consider gifting that to a charity, as you may be able to avoid the capital gains tax you otherwise would have paid when you sold the stock, Kroch says.
This story was originally published in November 2017 and has been updated.
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