John McMillin: Some guides for giving back to your community

As the nation’s largest charity, United Way of Worldwide understands the impact that charitable giving has on improving communities and helping individuals. United Way of Wilson County also understands how important it is to choose the right organization to donate your hard-earned dollars.
Jan 26, 2014
John McMillin

As the nation’s largest charity, United Way of Worldwide understands the impact that charitable giving has on improving communities and helping individuals. United Way of Wilson County also understands how important it is to choose the right organization to donate your hard-earned dollars. 

This year we want to help you prepare to make any type of charitable gift, we urge you to follow some simple guidelines:

• View your donation as an investment. Any gift to a charity should be seen as an investment, and you want to invest in a charity that will make a major impact on its recipients while also giving you personal satisfaction. An investment approach to a particular group or cause will ensure a more meaningful experience for you.

• Do your homework.
When selecting where to give, it is important to gather all the facts. Conducting thorough research prior to giving will help you separate legitimate charities from frauds, as well as reassure you that your donation is truly helping those who need it most. 

To avoid fraudulent charities, make sure your chosen charity doesn’t engage in any of the following activities:

• asking for cash donations.

• sending mail appeals disguised as bills or invoices.

• offering very little or no information on actual day-to-day operations.

• pressuring you to give.

• Understand the tax benefits of giving.
An added benefit to giving is that most charitable donations are tax-deductible. To receive a tax deduction, you will need the proper documentation when filing your income tax returns. The IRS requires a receipt for each tax-deductible contribution of $250 or more. Depending on the amount or type of your gift, you may need to provide additional documents with your tax form, such as Form 8283 for each non-cash donation exceeding $500.

• Decide how you will give and how much.
Financial donations are the most popular charitable gifts, but there are other ways to help your favorite cause. Many organizations will accept property and goods, as well as your time. There are many options on how to give, including donating directly online, by mail, through payroll deduction or through a donor-advised fund. Additionally, find out if your employer will match your charitable gift. This will even further maximize your investment.

• Track your donations.
Once you have made your gift, mark your calendar with important dates of your charity’s meetings and key events for the year. These are excellent ways to see your investment at work. Also, be sure to track the dates and amounts you gave payment methods and desired uses for your gift. You should automatically receive a receipt with an acknowledgement of your gift. If you don’t, be sure to follow up. Don’t rely on a cancelled check to count as a receipt. 

At UWWC, when we hold employee campaigns, employees are given a form immediately that can serve as a receipt, tax verification information and a reminder of the donor’s much-appreciated gift.

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County. Email him at jmunitedway@bellsouth.net.

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