‘Tis the season for all-day football watching marathons, hitting the slopes and going to the malls to return those over-sized, unwanted gifts.
It’s also the season of giving. Most non-profits raise one-third of their annual budget in November and December. The vast majority of those dollars come in this last week of the year and a good chunk come in on the last day of the year, the 31st.
This year the last day of the year, the 31st, falls on a Saturday. That means that many of those financial moves will have to made on the last business day of the year. That is today.
The last business day of the calendar year (again, today) is certainly beneficial for non-profits and it is also a beneficial day for you as a donor. It is the last day to take advantage of gains, protect yourself against unneeded taxes, offload loses and prepare your financial home for the coming tax season.
Here are some thought about giving and specifically year-end giving…
First, I hope you and your household have a plan for giving to those in need. I have worked in the non-profit space for three decades and I have personally seen thousands of families impacted significantly by giving away their resources. Financial giving is a gift that gives both ways. It helps fund the needs of our world, but it also gives to you, the donor, in ways that are incredible and incalculable.
As you prepare to give, search your own heart and mind. What do you care about? Where do you want to make an impact? In our house we want to invest in our most immediate community (North Everett, Wash.), to long-time friends in non-profit service, and to the poorest people in the most difficult places around the world (primarily through World Concern). That is where we focus our giving.
We also look for ways to have a donations matched. At year-end, many non-profits will offer matching dollars. You will see this on their website or in their materials.
So identify non-profits that address the areas you want to impact. Ensure that they are qualified non-profits. A good way to do so is at http://www.charitynavigator.com. They have done the work for you. Look for “four-star” charities. These are charities that live to the strictest financial and missional requirements.
With the charity picked, you are ready to give. So how do you give?
One of the easiest and most mutually beneficial ways to give is appreciated assets. Do you have a stock, bond or other security that has gone up in value since you bought it? Donate the appreciated asset to the charity. Don’t sell the asset and give the proceeds or you will have to pay taxes on the proceeds. Donate the stock directly. Almost any non-profit is prepared to receive assets.
For those that are 70 1/2 or older, check on a withdrawal from your traditional IRA. A “qualified charitable distribution” could be helpful. Check with your tax professional.
Of course, you can give by cash, check or credit card. If you are going to send a check, it must be postmarked by Saturday, December 31st. Rather than risking a USPS postmark, I suggest going to the organizations website and giving via credit card. Most all non-profits are set up for this kind of giving. If not, you can call the non-profit directly and give your credit card information over the phone. This gets the money directly to the non-profit and limits any issues with the mail. It makes it cleaner for you and for the non-profit organization.
Another option for giving cash or check to a non-profit is just hoping in the car and driving to the non-profit. Make sure you contact the offices first to ensure someone is at the office. This is a busy time for these folks, as well. Giving the check directly is encouraging and helps connect you to the non-profit and their staff. In fact, when you call a staff person they may just come by and pick up the check. Take their offer. These public servants are people that you are going to want to meet and know…especially if you are investing in them and their organization financially.
Remember to also have a good CPA and/or tax consultant help you with your giving plan. They should review and guide it. Also consultant a professional.
We are an very generous people in America. Yes, there are tax advantages in our country to giving, but the truth is we are people who care. The average annual household in the US make a contribution of $2,974 (but you can beat that…don’t you want to be above average). Last year, as a country, we gave donated $373.25 billion to non-profits. That was better than a 4% increase over the year previous.
I think we can do better than a 4% increase this year. Share this blog post with your circle of friends and encourage them to give. Encourage them to give where they feel led in 2016.
Today is the day. Don’t delay or procrastinate. Make your financial moves that allow you to be a generous person who is well connected to their community and the needs of the world.