It’s Giving Tuesday, a wonderful opportunity as we jump into the spendathon known as “the holidays” to put others before ourselves. It’s an excellent tradition, and it can be as easy as dropping money into a red kettle in a shopping center or starting an online fund-raiser that could change someone’s life. The important thing is to think about it and act with good intentions.
Matthew Ari Jendian, who directs Fresno State’s Humanics Department, has made wise giving his profession. His department teaches the next generation of leaders and professionals to help strengthen and lead community benefit organizations in Central California.
He recently wrote this in an essay about the importance of charitable giving: “For thousands of years, philanthropy – the desire to help humanity by giving one’s time, talent, and treasure – has built universities, hospitals and museums, preserved the arts, fed the hungry, housed the homeless and, most importantly, made the world a better place.
“Philanthropy is not just reserved for the rich, but for anyone interested in serving humanity and making a difference.”
He has found that an excellent way to get a lot of bang for your buck is to give to an “umbrella organization.” These groups give money to many organizations in the community. Examples are the Fresno Arts Council, Students4Giving Philanthropy Project, Central Valley Community Foundation and United Way of Fresno County, Tulare County and Merced County. This way your donations can help many groups.
Claudia Ruiz-Alvarez has a dream job when it comes to giving. She is the director of donor services for CFCF. Her focus is on helping donors give wisely and well. A lot of people will be asking for help by mail by social media, on radio, TV and through news organizations. Don’t fall for a phony. Here are some of her tips:
▪ Make sure it is an organization that is 501C3, which means the group is generally a good steward of donations, is accountable and produces regular financial reports.
▪ If you are giving to a national organization, stipulate that money be sent to the local chapter.
▪ Beware of groups you never heard of before.
▪ Look up the website called www.guidestar.com, which will give up-to-date information on nonprofits. If the information is out of date, that’s a red flag.
The Federal Trade Commission also has a list of recommendations on its website:
▪ Make sure you have the name right. Different organizations can have similar names. Some shady groups do that intentionally.
▪ Keep a record of your donations.
▪ Make an annual donation plan. That way, you can decide which causes to support and which reputable charities should receive your donations.
▪ Know the difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” Tax exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.
▪ Never send cash donations. For security and tax purposes, it’s best to pay by check — made payable to the charity — or by credit card.
▪ Do not provide your credit or check card number, bank account number or any personal information until you’ve thoroughly researched the charity.
▪ Be wary of charities that spring up too suddenly in response to current events and natural disasters. Even if they are legitimate, they probably don’t have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected area or people.
▪ If a donation request comes from a group claiming to help your local community (for example, local police or firefighters), ask the local agency if they have heard of the group and are getting financial support.
▪ What about texting? If you text to donate, the charge will show up on your mobile phone bill. If you’ve asked your mobile phone provider to block premium text messages – texts that cost extra – then you won’t be able to donate this way.
Ready to go?
Last year, The Bee’s Carmen George put together a great list of local charities who have good records. She compiled 50 ways to give back on Giving Tuesday (or any day) which is online at http://bit.ly/2Adp3JT. Take your pick and enjoy!