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Checking Out Charities

Give a little or give a lot, giving to charity offers more than just warm feelings. Understand the impact on your taxes and budget.


"'Tis the season!", so they say. Many people associate the holidays with giving or charity, and donating money to help those who are in need. In a world where we're all unable to come together right now, you may be wondering how you can appropriately give back.

You can always make donations to organizations that support causes that you believe in. And, of course, there are other kinds of giving as well. For example, you can donate things that you've outgrown or replaced. You can also volunteer your time and special skills and talents.


The point of philanthropy, or charitable giving, is not necessarily how much you give. Even small donations can add up to make a big difference. Philanthropy is really about recognizing that others can use your help and then donating what you can to make things better. The good feeling that comes from helping is why many people believe that giving is better, and more rewarding, than receiving.

Why People Give

There are many reasons why people give. It may simply be a desire to help others or share their good fortune with them. Or it may be a desire “to give back” to a community, school, or organization that contributed to their success.

Other people believe strongly in a cause, like protecting wildlife, preserving the environment or restoring a community, and they donate time and money to see the cause succeed. Or they may have a very personal reason for giving to an organization that shares their concern, such as stopping unsafe driving or using renewable energy.

How People Give

We know celebrities can do things like hold benefit concerts and events to raise money for the victims of disasters, and the ultra wealthy can give money to build buildings for their community, and attend $5000 plate galas to raise money for foundations that research cures for diseases. Or, they may provide scholarships for students going to college. Some people give a fixed amount of their income, sometimes as much as 10% or more, to causes of their choice.

While you may not have the money to give as much as these major benefactors—the people who support major causes and institutions—you can give in more ways than you think.

Charitable Contribution Limits and Exceptions

In most cases, the amount of charitable cash contributions taxpayers can deduct is limited to a percentage (usually 60 percent) of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). To qualify, the contribution must be:

  • a cash contribution;
  • made to a qualifying organization;
  • made during the calendar year 2020

Contributions of non-cash property do not qualify for this relief. Taxpayers may still claim non-cash contributions as a deduction, subject to the normal limits.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has also been reminding taxpayers of a special new provision that will allow more people to easily deduct up to $300 in donations to qualifying charities this year.

Following special tax law changes made earlier this year, cash donations of up to $300 made before December 31, 2020, are now deductible when people file their taxes in 2021.

"Our nation's charities are struggling to help those suffering from COVID-19, and many deserving organizations can use all the help they can get," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "The IRS reminds people there's a new provision that allows for up to $300 in cash donations to qualifying organizations to be deducted from income. We encourage people to explore this option to help deserving tax-exempt organizations – and the people and causes they serve."

You can read more about 2020 contribution deductions and limits on the IRS website.

childrens hospital donation receipt wall tag

Budgeting for Charity

Just as you budget for things you need and want, you can set aside a portion of your income to donate to charity. You can decide how much that should be, depending on your other expenses and how strongly you feel about giving. If you earmark some of your income for charity when creating your budget, you're more likely to have the money available to make your donation.

You might have several different charities that you would like to give to. Here's where budgeting can also help. Think of charity as a short-term but ongoing goal. By planning how much you would like to donate to each charity, you’ll know how much you'll need to save as part of your weekly or monthly budget.

Do Your Research on Charities

There are many worthwhile charities to which you might give time or money. But there are also people who claim to represent charities but really don't. They collect money only to enrich themselves, not to benefit others.

If someone asks you to donate money—in person, by phone, or online—take a closer look before you give. You might go to the organization's website or see what you can find out by typing the charity's name into a search engine. You can also check www.greatnonprofits.org to see a list of recognized charities that you can trust to use your donation for the right purpose.

As a credit union, in addition to helping our members achieve their financial goals, it's equally important to us to make our communities better. You can visit our Volunteer and Community page to find all the work we're doing in our communities and the great causes we support that you can contribute to as well!

If someone asks you to donate money—in person, by phone, or online—take a closer look before you give.


Give Away or Throw Away

Money isn't the only thing you can donate. Some charities specialize in collecting items that you're planning to throw out but are still in useable condition.

For example, there are charities that collect coats and other clothing for those in need. You might donate a jacket that you've outgrown, or shoes that you hardly wore. Other organizations collect used electronic devices, such as phones and computers, which they repair and distribute to people who can't afford them or donate to training programs.

There are neighborhood thrift shops that accept many different items, including books, CDs, and toys. These shops typically give a percentage of the money they earn to charitable organizations, such as food banks, shelters, or other community groups.

Volunteering

Besides giving money, you can contribute to charity by volunteering, or giving your time. Many charities have small staffs and depend on volunteers to deliver their services and fulfill their mission.

You might consider:

  • Volunteering to work in a food or clothing drive to help out the victims of a fire or flood
  • Volunteer to make a cake for a local bake sale
  • Wash cars to raise money for a school event
  • Volunteer your time in a soup kitchen
  • Deliver for institutions that provide meals for those who would otherwise go hungry
  • Read to children or senior citizens in community centers or libraries
  • Or, contribute your time to programs sponsored by other neighborhood organizations

There's a myriad of ways you can help this holiday season and into the new year. We all have had challenges this year, and have learned how we can lean on each other a little bit more.  Learn more about charities we support and work we do in our communities by clicking the link below. See how you can do something small to make a large impact for somebody else.


Looking for a good cause to support? See organizations we sponsor

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