Thinking beyond your bank account when it comes to year-end charitable giving

You’ve heard the expression “Give until it hurts“? Charity Navigator’s advice for year-end charitable giving is to give until it feels good — and that can be accomplished any number of ways.

The most common way people give back is by making cash donations from bank accounts or through PayPal, a credit card or check.

Kevin Scally, of Charity Navigator, which evaluates the financial health and transparency of charities nationwide, said there are other ways to give, some of which can have tax benefits to you. “I certainly recommend that you connect with a tax professional,” he said.

“One of the ways is donating a stock. When you donate a stock that you’ve held for one or more years, you can actually avoid the capital gains tax,” Scally added.

You can learn about ways to give that include everything from providing skilled services to donating blood or vehicles on the Charity Navigator website.

Point of sale transactions are becoming more popular. That involves being given an option when paying for something to include a set dollar amount donation or rounding your purchase total up to the nearest dollar.

Personal benefits of feeling empowered to give in your own way, Charity Navigator spokesman says

“Anytime that you’re giving, you should definitely know where you’re giving to. And in some of those cases, you might not necessarily know that,” Scally said. “They say, ‘Hey, will you round up to support the animals?’ And you say yes, but you don’t necessarily know which organization you’re supporting.

“We want to make sure that everybody who’s giving is giving with their heart, but also giving with their head,” Scally said.

Charitable giving also can be accomplished by volunteering through Americorps, for example, or through acts of service that benefit others.

You can collect items to be distributed as donations, too, but ask a few questions first.

“The most important thing is certainly making sure that it’s something that an organization can actually use,” Scally said. “It’s really good to get direction from the organizations that are on the ground, and actually dealing with the constituents that are impacted by (whatever the situation) and understanding what it is that they truly need.”

Noting that people’s needs are growing and that the nonprofit sector is an important safety net to society, Scally said people should feel empowered to give, whether it’s $5 or $5,000.

“Maybe you don’t have any money at all, and you can go out and volunteer. Or, some of the things like we talked about of donating stock — there may be other creative ways for you to be able to give,” he said. “And it’s not only good for the end beneficiary, whether that’s a person, an animal, the environment, you name it; it’s also good for you.”

There are lots of studies, he said, on the psychology and the physical and mental benefits of giving.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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