We have that December feeling — a crisp chill in the air, the tinkling of sleigh bells, and a mailbox overfilled with donation requests from charitable organizations. As Americans, we gave over $373 billion in 2016 alone. As your desire to give grows this time of year, we have outlined some tips to ensure you can do so with peace-of-mind that your gift provides maximum efficiency for both you and your charity of choice.
The nonprofit organizations you donate to in support of your favorite causes are dependent on those charitable contributions. And while the contributions you make are for the greater good, many savvy investors understand that charitable contributions are also an investment.
Reasons for donating are as varied as the contributors themselves. Besides furthering the goals of a cause close to one’s heart, charitable giving can soften one’s personal brand, be a touching tribute or legacy for a loved one, or create numerous tax advantages for investors.
A charitable tax write-off sows guaranteed returns, and a lifetime of charitable giving can help with estate planning. There are several ways that a charitable contribution is an investment in your portfolio. For example, opening a charitable remainder trust (CRT) may help an investor turn non-income-generating assets and properties into profitable ones. Charitable investments may also fund life insurance, a way to better provide for heirs. Additionally, private foundations offer reduced estate and income taxes; a charitable bequest may reduce gift taxes, and donor-advised funds allow assets to grow tax-free.
It’s the season for giving, but beware. There is never a shortage of scandals involving charitable foundations misusing funds or turning out to be outright scams. As an investor, you want to make sure your dollar makes a real difference in the right places. This means you’ll have to fully screen those in whom you choose to invest before making your donation decisions. Luckily, there are more options available now than ever before for screening the charities of your choice. Some top choices include:
· charitynavigator.org and give.org — These organizations document legitimate charities, including governance and cost-effectiveness. Check them out to see if the charity you are thinking about giving to is legitimate, or a scam.
· The Charity Navigator app — This handy app provides quick reference checks.
· myphilanthropedia.org — View rankings of the most cost-effective charities by cause.
· GuideStar — Get insight into the tax returns of charitable organizations. Here you can see executive compensation, mission statements, and whether any money went to the family or business of the executive, or other charity personnel.
For tax savings, there is not necessarily a best time to give throughout the year. However, the urge to give is typically strongest around the holidays. As the holiday season coincides with year-end, this time of year is often best for investors looking to limit their tax burden.
It is important that you have a charitable-giving plan. Researching the charities that serve the causes close to your heart and working with your financial advisor to develop a plan around your giving will help you maximize the benefit of your donation, both for the organization of choice and for your personal investment.