December is a month that is all about giving, it is no surprise that it also the busiest month for most charities and non-profit organizations. According to the Atlas of Giving, an organization that measures charitable giving, in 2011 over $346 billion were donated.
Religious groups receive the most charitable gifts, followed by education and disaster relief. Due to the disasters of 2012, most notably Hurricane Sandy, the numbers for this year will indeed be much higher than 2011. If you’re wondering how you can give back during the holidays, here are a few ways for make the most of charitable donations.
- Find the right charity or organization for you. Sites like MyPhilanthropedia.com and GreatNonprofits.org can help you find an organization nearby or one with your cause in mind. It’s easy to know what “big” charities are out there, but the smaller non-profits and charities need your help too.
- Take a look at expense ratios to make sure your donation is going to the cause above all. As with any other company, there are workers to be paid and costs to be covered. Try to find an organization whose expenses are less than 20 percent of their budget. You should be able to find this information on the non-profit or charity’s website; if they are in your area consider visiting their offices to learn more about them.
- If you are giving a monetary gift, use a check or donate online using your banking information. Giving with a credit card could cause the organization to pay processing fees so your donation could be much less once it clears. If you are giving online make sure you protect your identity whenever you’re entering in your personal banking information.
- Always get a receipt to deduct your contributions during tax season. If you make a donation of over $250 the IRS requires you to have a receipt.
- If you can’t give money, give what you can. No matter if you are giving away used clothing, participating in a food drive, or volunteering at a soup kitchen — anything helps.
Atlas of Giving is forecasting that in 2012 charitable giving will grow by over $10 billion. Follow our tips and do what you can during the season of giving.