For many of us, the holidays are the time of year when we do our best to think of others. We give greetings and thanks (…and gifts) to our loved ones and donate goods or volunteer for the less fortunate. In a week that is filled with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there are now “Giving Tuesday” and “Wise Giving Wednesday”, two events that encourage giving back instead of commercialization and consumerism.
Giving Tuesday, an event created by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, and Wise Giving Wednesday, created by the Better Business Bureau aim to help donors select responsible charities and get more out of their giving. As these events have gained steam, so has support from companies in the form of donation matching, making your donation go a little further.While Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 and Wise Giving Wednesday in 2001, this is the first year I’ve heard about them (along with most of the people I informally polled).
After doing some research, I learned that there are over 1.2 million 501(c)(3) organizations in the USA. When I learned that, I realized that how much you give and how you give back is only one part of the equation. While choosing a cause is fairly straightforward, the harder question is which charity to pick to get the most from your donation.
Fortunately, there are a few charity navigation websites that aim to make that choice easier. Here are a few I recommend when choosing where to give:
- BBB Wise Giving Alliance
- Charity Navigator
- ConsumerReports.org Tips for Giving
- Guidestar Charity Search
• Verify tax-exempt status. If you’re not sure whether donations to a particular charity are tax-deductible (don’t assume they are), confirm a group’s status by checking with the group or by going to the IRS website.
• Give directly. If you’re contacted by a professional fundraiser for a charity you want to support, hang up and give directly instead. “The fundraiser might be keeping 75 to 90 percent of the money,” says Daniel Borochoff of CharityWatch. Sometimes, he says, charities may end up paying fundraisers more than they take in, leaving the group with a loss.
• Be on guard for sound-alikes. Some low-rated charities have names that resemble those of high-rated ones. For example, there’s the low-rated American Breast Cancer Foundation of Columbia, Md., and the high-rated Breast Cancer Research Foundation of New York, N.Y. “In some cases, sound-alike charities are there with the intent to deceive donors into thinking they are donating to somebody else,” says Bennett Weiner of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. In other instances, groups have similar names because they’re focusing on the same causes.
Did you take part in Giving Tuesday or Wise Giving Wednesday? If you missed out, there’s still time to get the most out of your donations this holiday season. Use a charity watchdog to help guide your choice in a charity and contact them about donation matching campaigns that may be coming up. And, like us, you can pencil in the date next year!