How to Maximize Your Donations

We all like to give where we can, especially this time of year when appreciating what we have and taking care of others is at the forefront of our minds. You may be bombarded with requests to give and wonder how you can make your donation go as far as possible. Here are some tips to do just that and to help maximize the impact of your donation.

Do Your Research

You may already have a charity in mind that is meaningful to you, or you may be looking for an organization who supports a cause you care about. If the latter describes you, doing your research can be critical to getting the most out of your monetary donation. You can use resources like Charity Navigator to determine which organizations put their funds to the best use. You should look for charities that direct the majority of their funds towards program expenses. That means a higher percentage of what you donate will go directly to the people (or animals) that need it most.

Once you’ve decided which organization to donate to, you may be asked by that charity if you’d like your donation to be marked towards a specific program within their organization. This is particularly common with larger charities that may have several programs they are supporting. If you don’t have a strong preference in this area, consider leaving the funds unrestricted for the organization. This allows the people inside the charity who are well versed in the needs of their organization to direct the funds to the place they are most needed and is typically more valuable to them than a donation that has been earmarked for a specific purpose.

Double Your Contribution with Matching

Most charities will also ask you if your employer will match your donations. While many do match, you may not be overtly aware of it. Reach out to your Human Resource department to see if they are aware of a matching program. If not, you can keep an eye out for periodic offers where other donors will offer to match your contributions. If you listen to public radio you may have heard this offered during their fundraising drives. Also, Giving Tuesday is a great time to make your money go further because organizations like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are offering to match donations made to charities such as Back on My Feet and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Non-cash Donations Make an Impact

If you don’t have any extra money to spare for a monetary donation, don’t think that you can’t donate. Giving household items and clothing to your local church or Goodwill can make a huge impact. Many organizations are also looking for people to donate their time or services. If you have a skill like carpentry or accounting, you may be even more valuable if you find the right charity that needs those services. Remember that no contribution is too small and that if we all gave what we could, be it time or money, the world would be a much better place.

Save Your Receipts for Taxes

Here’s where giving can give back. If you are living in the U.S. and you itemize your taxes (most likely if you have a mortgage or pay a high amount of state taxes) you can deduct your contributions on your personal tax return. Just make sure you keep good records of your donations and have receipts available for larger donations (over $250). Even those household items you donated can be deducted, so keep track of what you contributed and use this guide from Goodwill to help determine the value of your donation.

There are so many ways to give these days that there’s no reason not to. Consider giving back on this wonderful Giving Tuesday. Every little bit helps!

Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook

Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, finance writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.