Holiday giving includes charitable donations

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.

Posted 12/24/13

Giving to our favorite charity is an American holiday tradition. Last year, Americans gave a record $316 billion in

charitable contributions.

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

the spot.


* 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 ( 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.


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