North Dakotans across the state are sharing with the less fortunate through bell
ringers with red pails, toys for tots, food baskets and checks to favorite
charities during this giving season.
Giving to our favorite charity is an American holiday tradition. Last year, Americans gave a record $316 billion in
Holiday donations often are part of financial plans, with donors giving thought to who and how much they will share each year.
“This year, take some time to consider all your options,” says Lori Scharmer, North Dakota State University Extension Service family economics specialist.
“Talk it over with your family and check out several organizations to find out what their needs are and how your money will be spent. Also, have a giving plan
so when solicitors come knocking or calling, you can explain that you already have contributed to your chosen causes.”
Scharmer has some tips for safe and helpful holiday giving:
* Consider keeping your donations in your own community to help those
organizations and individuals. North Dakota has very worthy, hardworking
organizations that will put your contributions to work.
* Ask for written information. A legitimate charity will give you information
outlining its mission, how your donation will be distributed and if your
contribution will be tax deductible.
* Ask for identification. Many states require paid fundraisers to identify
themselves as such and name the charity for which they’re soliciting.
* Watch out for similar-sounding names. Some phony charities use names that
sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. Call the
charity to find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has
authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a sham
* Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate charities won’t push you to give on
* Be cautious of charities that offer to send a courier for your donation.
* Don’t give cash. For security and tax record purposes, donate by check. Write
the official name of the charity on your check.
* Remember tax deductions. If you itemize deductions on your federal income
taxes, you may be able to deduct money and property contributions to qualified
tax-exempt organizations that are within Internal Revenue Service guidelines.
Ask for a receipt for all charitable contributions, including small cash
donations. Remember that only donated items in good condition are tax
* Don’t overlook airline miles. Many charities accept frequent flier miles on
behalf of their beneficiaries. For example, the Make a Wish Foundation estimates
it will need more than a billion miles to grant each child’s travel wishes this
year (wish.org/ways-to-help/giving/airline-miles). Look on your favorite
airline’s website for links to nonprofit organizations that accept its miles.
* Donate your time. Millions of people contribute personal time by cleaning
parks, staffing homeless shelters, reading to underprivileged children and
volunteering for countless other causes. Contributing your time and effort can
be much more rewarding than just writing a check.
“Donating your hard-earned money or valuable time is the best holiday gift you can give to your community and yourself,” Scharmer says.