Before you open your checkbook, volunteer your time or even open that mail from another charity, you need to clarify your values:
Your next step is to find charities that meet your criteria: Check the description on their websites or in their literature. How else should you evaluate charities?
Check a Charity's Legitimacy
Here's a checklist:
Get Smart on Taxes
Now for the hard part—can you deduct your giving come next year's taxes? As you know, the tax overhaul makes the standard deduction much larger, so far fewer filers will choose to itemize, eliminating one incentive for deductions. Your itemized deductions will have to be greater than the new standard deduction for you to benefit from listing deductions separately. To get a tax break from your charitable donations, you can:
Get Smart on Research
There's a lot to think about to make sure you get the most bang for your charity bucks. There are rating sites that show how much a given charity spends on overhead and point out any red flags suggesting possible mismanagement, but that doesn't say how much a charity accomplishes with the donation you give.
There are some sites that can help. Charity Navigator rates more than 9,000 charities, giving them scores on accountability and transparency, for example. You can find out how much a charity spends on the actual good works, as opposed to administration and fundraising. Does the charity have a conflict-of-interest policy? Audited financial statements? A formal process of determining CEO compensation? You can check all this.
Your legacy, now and after you're gone, is important. So, when it comes to charity, choose wisely.
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