WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Tis the season of giving. It’s the time of the year when we give gifts to family and friends, but also the time to think about others who may be less fortunate. Before you write a check to someone or someplace, make sure you know the dos and don’ts of charitable giving.
“Charities, at this time of year, are in need of people’s contributions, but you need to make sure that you’re giving to something that’s going to do what you want it to do," said · E. Craig Heim, the CEO and President of United Way Cape Fear.
Don’t just give money to any organization or group that sounds great. Do your research before handing over cash or a check or swiping the credit card.
“If you want to give to charity, get to know the charity,” said Heim. “There are many ways to do that. One of the best ways is to go to their website and look for their 990. That will tell you how much they raise, who’s on their board, the things they do, and you want to make sure your money is going to be well spent.”
Don’t make a donation with strings attached. Do make sure you discuss the intentions with your money to make sure it’s going where you’d like it to go.
Do make sure the charity is registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt organization. You can search the IRS non-profit charities database to see if it is. If the charity you want to donate to is not on that list, your contribution won’t be tax-deductible.
“If you’re looking at the 990s, you’ll always want to see: how much do they raise and how much do they spend? That’s called overhead and usually, you’ll want to see something that will be 80% of the money going to the services you want to support,” said Heim.
Make sure you do some planning and make sure you budget for charitable giving. Don’t make a donation with cash or a money wire. If you donate by credit card or check, you have a better record to claim a deduction on your federal taxes. Also, don’t assume you can always deduct the full amount of your donation. If part of your donation goes towards “goods & services,” the entire amount is not tax-deductible.
Don’t provide financial or personal information like sending credit card information in emails or over the phone. This will help you become less vulnerable to charity scams. Do ask for information. Asking questions and can verify the legitimacy of the organization, especially if they reach out to you first.
Don’t limit yourself to monetary donations. Donating your time can be just as valuable.
“Engagement in community is financial support, but not exclusively," said Heim. "In some cases, people will give their time and when people give their time and get involved in the community, so many good things can happen, but it also takes money. So what we hope is that people can spare the time and the money to be able to make a difference in someone’s life and it really does work.”
If you’d like to learn more about United Way Cape Fear or have them help you contribute to a local charity, visit their website or call 910-798-3900.