Make Giving to Charity Seamless with a Charitable Giving Plan
Are you the type of person who likes to make charitable contributions that align with your values, but want to give more than one-off gifts every so often? Creating a charitable giving plan offers a more strategic, organized approach to giving to charity—one that also maximizes the effects of your philanthropic gifts. Here are the steps you should consider as you look to make your gift-giving to charity more regular.
Step 1: Research
Giving to charity is different for everyone. During this personal process, you need to determine what organization or organizations you want to donate to, how much you want to donate, and how you want your donation distributed.
Start by considering what causes you want to support and which organizations are best addressing those areas of need. Dig into your organizations of interest and the results they are—or aren't—getting for their given cause. Charity Navigator can help you investigate further. Also look into the organization's financial health. As a rule of thumb, a charity should spend no more than 25 percent of its budget on overhead costs. The other 75 percent should go to its programs. Visit a site like GuideStar to get data on nonprofits, including tax returns, that will reveal whether a given organization is sustainable.
Next, decide how much you want to donate in total and over the course of how many years. Before you settle on a number, consider your full financial situation and how charitable giving fits into the big picture.
Step 2: Determine How You'll Give
There are numerous ways of giving beyond writing a check or donating assets, such as clothing or a car.
For example, you can give through a donor-advised fund. You put your money in a charitable giving account and the sponsoring institution will manage it. Or, if you want to be more hands-on, you can set up a private foundation.
Other options including gifting your life insurance or retirement assets, donating securities or planning for a charitable gift annuity. You can also choose to volunteer your time and help in a more hands-on way.
Step 3: Minimize Taxes
Giving to charity can reduce several taxes and you should try to maximize your gift's impact by knowing tax rules. For example, writing a check offers an income tax deduction, whereas donating stocks allows you to avoid the capital gains tax.
Many non-cash donations, particularly anything that has appreciated in value like stocks or artwork, have greater potential for tax benefits.
Check that the organizations you're donating to qualify for tax-exempt deductions. If you're donating anything that's worth more than $250, make sure the charity gives you an acknowledgment of the gift in writing, including its value.
No matter what you decide, consider talking with a financial advisor who can help you explore the different ways to give, the tax implications and which options may best fit into your overall financial plan.