As a college student, I don’t have a lot of discretionary income that I can give away to charities during the holidays. But I volunteer at an animal shelter, which is my way of giving to the community. I have also bought some supplies that were tax deductible.
Here are some ideas for holiday giving to not-for-profit charities on how to avoid charity scams; where to give locally, such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army; and how to get a tax deduction for donations.
It’s sad to think, but many charities may look legitimate, however, are actually scams. Some purposely choose a name similar to a legitimate charity to confuse you. Others use the Internet and mass email notifications seeking your money. And most cold phone calls seeking charity donations over the phone are not legitimate. Know the charity before you give money, and do some research. CharityNavigator.org is a good place to start your research.
“Just like with phone and email fraud, never give a gift where you didn’t initiate the communication,” advises Tim Meisenheimer, certified financial planner with Streamline Financial Services in Illinois, in “The best ways to give money to charity this holiday season,” by Jeff Brown, posted on CNBC.com November 13, 2015. “If you’re giving online, make sure that you see the ‘https’ at the beginning of the Web address so that it’s a secure link and your information is not compromised.”
Give from the heart
Meisenheimer suggests that you give where your heart is: if you love animals, give to a shelter; if your grandparent has Alzheimer’s, donate to that cause; if your relative is a nurse, see if you can volunteer to be a candy striper; if you have a family member in the armed services, donate to that. There are many options.
Another way to prevent against scams is to give or volunteer locally. I was going to donate to a large national charity, but something about it was suspicious. So instead I considered how I could help the people in my own community. “I think local needs often go unmet simply because we’re unaware of exactly what they are. It’s more sensational for media outlets to carry stories of global disaster than to talk about the homeless people living 10 miles away,” wrote Matt Jabs in “Should We Give Locally Before Giving Globally?” at FiveCentNickel.com, February 18, 2010.
To learn what charitable needs are in your community:
- Check out local places of worship – they know people in the local area who need help.
- Call city hall – they have a list of local charities and contact information.
- Check online or use the phone book – they have information on homeless shelters, food banks, women’s shelters, etc.
- Give to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.
Charity donations are tax deductible
For college students, getting rid of some unused, but good condition, furniture and appliances may be an option. If you or your parents are buying new furniture for your dorm or rental house, or if you are moving out for good, consider giving the old furniture to charity. “It pays to donate reasonably big-ticket items if you can,” said George Cook, an executive professor at the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester in New York, posted in “5 Items to Donate for a Charitable Tax Deduction,” by Geoff Williams, posted on the U.S. News Money site November 21, 2014. “For example, a complete bedroom set can get you up to a $1,000 write-off. Complete dining room sets may get you up to $90. Computers, copiers, televisions and refrigerators in working order might get you $250. Working washing machines can be up to $150.” And some charities will come pick up the furniture.
Are you planning to donate goods or volunteer services this holiday season?