We've all heard the advice: Get your charitable donations in before the clock strikes midnight on December 31 -- or say goodbye to potential tax breaks. But how to make sure you're choosing the best charity in the first place? Here are 5 tips for making the most of your charitable dollars before we ring in the new year.
1. Find a charity with a track record
Experience matters, and so does innovation. If you'd like to give to clean water efforts, look for a charity that has staff on the ground and can show success at providing wells and handpumps that can be repaired locally. If addressing homelessness is your passion, look for an organization that's been tackling the problem in your city for several years or more--and is a local leader on the issue.
2. Look beyond overhead
Efficiency is an important factor when choosing a charity, but effectiveness is the key question. Once you've identified fiscally responsible charities, look for one that shares regular updates, impact reports, photos and videos from the frontlines of their work. Efficiency alone is no guarantee the charity is making a difference.
3. Ask questions before you give
Most charities raise a big percentage of their donations in the last week of December, so they should have knowledgeable staff standing by to answer your questions. Don't feel pressured to write that check until you learn a little more. Visit the charity's website, send an email, or pick up the phone.
4. See what others are saying
Social media makes it easy to see what a charity's biggest fans and critics have to say. Most charities have Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and blogs where the public can leave comments and ask questions. See how responsive the charity is in sharing information and addressing any concerns donors might have. You'll get a taste of how you'll be treated if you become a donor.
5. Watch for scams
The year-end giving season is a popular time for scam artists to try and take advantage of your generosity. Don't let them! Be on your guard for emails that ask for your credit card or other personal information. If you receive a phone call asking for money from a charity you don't know, check their website and the Better Business Bureau before giving. If in doubt, check it out!
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Tips are provided by Larry Probus, Chief Financial Officer at World Vision.
Need some year-end giving ideas? Let us make it easy for you. Give a donation to World Vision that will go towards where it's needed most -- to support programs like food aid, clean water and emergency relief. Or choose another gift to give from the World Vision Gift Catalog and make your year-end giving count for a child in need.