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Giving Carefully

We are a nation of givers. Giving USA reports that individual Americans contributed $258.5 billion to charities in 2014. If you plan on contributing to charity anytime soon, it may be wise to spend a little time making sure your money reaches the people you want it to go to. These tips can help you investigate the charities you plan to help.

CHECK ITS STATUS

Is the charity qualified to receive tax-deductible contributions? This is critical if you want to claim a federal income tax deduction for your contributions to the organization.You can check out a charity’s status at www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/exempt-organizations-select-check.

UNDERSTAND ITS MISSION

Each charity has a mission statement that describes what help it provides and to whom. Read the mission statement to confirm that it aligns with your goals and your values.

DO SOME RESEARCH

The charity’s most recent IRS Form 990S will provide you with information about its administrative expenses and how much the charity’s executives are paid. You can also visit websites like www.charitynavigator.org for additional information about an organization’s efficiency. Generally, efficient charities spend 25% or less of their budget on administrative expenses.

TALK TO PEOPLE

If possible, talk to individuals involved with the charity about how effective it has been in reaching goals and benchmarks. If a charity lacks a record of accomplishing its stated goals, you may need to reconsider your support.

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