Philanthropy Column


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 Philanthropy 
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Everyone wants my money! Here’s how to say ‘No’ and still be a charitable and generous person

School and church fundraisers. Donation requests at every grocery store checkout line. Facebook and Twitter friends asking for support for their fundraising efforts. Tip jars at deli counters. Girl Scout cookie drives.

The pleas for my money never seem to end. And because it’s $1 here, $10 there, I’m a sucker for helping out.

I used to give to everything until I realized it was bleeding me dry.
Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad, but there have been weeks where it seems anything extra that

I could be putting in my savings account or throwing toward a debt that needs to be paid ends up going toward a charitable endeavor.

Yes, these are good causes and all, but just as in other areas of spending, I’ve had to make up a few rules for myself.

That way, I can still fit goodwill into my budget, but also learn how to say no without feeling guilty when I reach my limit.

I just say ‘no’ at the checkout counter.

Whether it’s the grocery store, a department store, or the dollar store, every clerk during just about every transaction asks if I want to donate to a children’s hospital, cancer research, Autism awareness… the list goes on and on.
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 Philanthropy 
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It’s getting easier to do good by linking your spending to your favorite charity

If you’re one of the 95% of Americans who donate to charity each year, your good will could stretch a little further if you spend your money wisely.

You can now support everything from education to the environment through your credit or debit card, bank account or other payment method.

Some options provide funds to particular nonprofit organizations, while others give you the flexibility to choose the charity that reaps your rewards.

I’m a huge Amazon.com shopper, buying everything from special food for my senior cat to cosmetics through the site.

Last year I signed up for the AmazonSmile program after friends who run a clinic that provides low-cost veterinarian care suffered a devastating loss. An arsonist torched their facility, destroying the inside of the building and killing the three clinic cats.
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 Philanthropy 
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Asked to donate at the register? Feel free to say ‘bah humbug’

Asked to donate at the register? Feel free to say noEver experience “donation shaming”?

It’s a common practice, especially during the holidays, for cashiers at grocery stores and big box retailers to ask you if you want to donate a few dollars to a charity along with your purchase.
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 Philanthropy 
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Why We Use a Charitable Gift Fund

Donation BoxA few years ago, I mentioned we were going to open up a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund to help facilitate our charitable giving. When I was growing up, my parents didn’t do any charitable giving the way Americans do – donating to their favorite charities or philanthropies. For our family, our charitable giving was in the form of sending money back to grandparents and relatives. Anything “left over,” as if that existed, was saved so that we could pay for flights back to Taiwan to see those relatives. (nowadays it’s different, my mom and I have chatted about the charities we support)

So when my lovely wife started talking about making some charitable donations, I left it in her hands. I was just going to try to figure out how to donate the smartest way possible. That’s when I stumbled upon charitable gift funds.

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 Philanthropy 
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How to Donate Responsibly

Give us this day...One of the ways that you can help others, and receive a financial advantage in the form of a tax break is to donate to charity. Your philanthropic efforts can provide a way for you to influence the world in a good way, as well as give a little back to you with the help of a tax advantage.

Most of those who donate aren’t just in it for the tax break. Many of us like to feel as though we are doing good in the world, and helping others. Donating responsibly is part of making sure that your money goes to a good cause.

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 Personal Finance, Philanthropy 
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Charitable Giving: Donating Your Stuff

donationsOne of the ways you can help a worthy cause, and get a tax break, is to donate your goods. Many charities, such as thrift stores and shelters, accept donations of goods. You can even get a tax deduction for these goods. However, you do need to be careful. The IRS is picky about what you can donate, and the charities themselves are become choosier about what they will accept if you want to donate.

So, as you go through your closets and drawers, and before you clean out the attic or basement, think about the new standards of charitable giving when it comes to donating your goods:

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 Philanthropy 
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Use Charity Navigator to Research Charities

As we near the end of the year, you’ll inevitably start seeing year end tax tips type of posts (I promise you at least one before we close out 2010). Those year end tax tips will certainly recommend that you make some charitable contributions before the end of the year so that you can take advantage of the tax deduction for this year. Before you go out donating money to every organization that you think is worthy, I recommend that you do a little research on charities to make sure your dollar can go as far as it can. With the economy as weak as it is, it’s important to make those contributions count.

Charity Navigator is my go-to charity rating site whenever I want to learn more about the effectiveness of a particular philanthropic organization. They do a fantastic job of reading through the financial statements and boiling it down to metrics that matter. When it comes to donating, you want your dollars to go as far as possible. I don’t want to have fifty cents of every dollar going to fundraising, I want 80 cents to go to the mission and maybe 20 cents to the “other stuff.” (even that seems high to me)

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 Philanthropy 
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Your Take: Favorite Year End Deduction?

With the year drawing to a close, a lot of people are thinking about year end tax moves, including myself. In general, there aren’t many year end tax moves you can make on December 18th. If you’re going to buy a house and take advantage of the home buyer tax credit, you would’ve started the process by now. If you wanted to buy a car, while it’s certainly not a terrible time to buy, it’s not terribly likely you’ll be able to do an in depth search, especially with the holidays getting in the way.

However, there are a handful of steps you can take and my favorite of them all is to pick out a few charities to support. You have to be sure to follow the documentation rules for tax purposes but it can pay dividends both financially and spiritually. I won’t get into the mechanics but each year we donate some money to a half dozen charities we’ve supported in the past and find a few new ones to support on a smaller level.

Anytime you can give, whether it’s time or money, the organization benefits. It can be $10, $100, or $1,000 but the important part is to remember those who are working hard to provide more good in this world and help support them when you can.

What’s your favorite year end tax deduction? If it’s charitable giving, what organizations do you support and how? It’s always fun to learn about smaller organizations doing great work at the local level.

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