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How to donate

How to donate: 7 tips to improve your giving

According to a new Fidelity Charitable poll, charitable donors have similar worries that prevent them from contributing more. Think about these remedies.

Two-thirds of U.S. donors want to give more to causes they care about—but many have concerns that make it challenging to give as much as they’d like.

What worries are there that prevent you from giving? Obstacles to donating can take a variety of forms, as our report Overcoming Barriers to Giving demonstrates: Some contributors are worried about the way NGOs interact with them, while others are worried about planning and keeping track of their donations. But the two main issues that the majority of donors have are how to finance their giving and how to comprehend the results of their contributions.

Does this sound familiar?

Three-quarters of donors say financing their giving is a top concern; more than eight in 10 say impact is a top concern. We’ve provided seven tips focusing on these two top issues, and this advice will help you donate, no matter your charities of choice, no matter the amount.

1. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Many donors wait until the very end of the calendar year to give. Doing this will make it very difficult to execute some of the steps below (such as giving appreciated stock or using a donor-advised fund). And if something unexpected happens (as it often does with large credit card donations, which credit-card companies may flag for review), you may have little time to react.

We recommend setting a target date of December 10 or earlier for finalizing your gift if you are giving appreciated stock or using a donor-advised fund.

2. Try to get a tax benefit.

Details vary by country and personal situation, but a tax deduction can allow you to give much more to charity at the same cost to yourself. (That said, as discussed below, we believe it is more important to give to the most effective possible charity than to get the maximum tax benefit.)

The tax-deductibility of our charities in various countries, including the United States, is discussed in detail here. In particular, donors living in the U.S., United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia should easily be able to make tax-deductible donations to any of GiveWell’s top charities. Donors living outside of these countries, particularly donors who live in the European Union, may also be able to make tax-deductible donations; we recommend checking with the individual charity or charities you’re interested in supporting for more information.

3. Avoid the large transaction fees and delays associated with large online donations.

When donating via credit card, you will almost always be charged standard credit card processing fees. For donations up to $1,000, our feeling is that it’s worth paying the fees to avoid the hassle for you and the charity of another donation method; fees on a $1,000 donation will generally be around $20-$30. In addition, large credit card transactions are often flagged by credit card companies, although a call to the credit card company can generally resolve the situation quickly.

More information about alternative donation options, such as check donations and wire transfers, is available on our page with advice for larger donors. Additional information about donating via various methods for donors making gifts of all sizes is available here.

Tip 4: Write a mission statement to focus your giving

In our survey, 53 percent of respondents said they were bombarded with charity requests for how to donate their resources. In addition, 45 percent felt burdened by requests from friends and family members, who expected donations to causes close to their hearts.

Creating a giving mission statement helps you focus on issues you care about most and want to support. It is a way to give yourself permission to say “no” to causes that may be worthy but don’t align with your values and charitable priorities. In addition, by concentrating your efforts, you can increase their impact.

Tip 5: Understand how your favorite charities operate

About two-thirds (67 percent) of donors said they’re occasionally unsure about a charity’s trustworthiness. A little research may be all you need to determine how your gifts are being used.

Not finding answers in emails or newsletters they send you? Ask the charity directly about their funding needs and how they use the donations. Also, charity research tools such as GuideStar and Charity Navigator publish reports with pertinent information on nonprofits. The greater the confidence you have in the charity, the more you’ll feel that your gift is making a difference.

Tip 6: Use a giving guide to find effective charities

Impact guides, like ones from the Center of High Impact Philanthropy, offer reports by category (education, poverty, global health), summarizing the programs, impact and operating efficiency of organizations you might consider as recipients of your donations. You can also follow respected foundations, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to see where their money goes.

Tip 7: Teach the whole family how to donate

Including your family in giving actually has a dual benefit: it can deepen the impact your family has now and into the future on a worthy cause, but it can also increase the amount you give. Here’s how.

For families with kids at home, a simple idea to get started includes setting up donation jars for yourself and your kids. You can set an example as well as encourage them to contribute to the jars with spare change, gift money, allowance or job income.

Then, set aside time to talk about where they want to donate their jar’s contents, where you will give yours, and what other charitable donations you make. Discuss current events, your values and family priorities. These conversations are also great times to talk about other ways your family might give, such as through volunteering.

Are you ready to change how you donate to make your giving more effective and easier? Leave ad hoc giving behind and create a plan. Our checklist of strategies, which shows you how to donate effectively, can move you toward the rich and fulfilling giving experience you’ve always wanted.

 

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