It’s said that charity begins at home and that you can think globally by acting locally. With the many options you have for performing charitable deeds, you can make a difference in your community, for your country or on an international level. Think beyond monetary donations to realize your full giving potential. In some cases, charity can provide you with a monetary benefit.
The most obvious example of charity is the donation of money. If you aren’t completely sure how much of an impact you’re making with monetary donations, research charities before you give. Websites such as Guidestar and Foundation Center let you download the year-end tax returns of many charities to see exactly where your money goes. Sites such as Charity Navigator rank nonprofits based on their performance and how much of your donation goes to good works vs. administrative expenses.
If you’re short on cash or want to get more involved, donate your time to nonprofit organizations. Volunteer to walk dogs at your local pet shelter, cook and serve food and clean dishes at a soup kitchen or help build a home with Habitat for Humanity. Visit the website of conservation organizations to see if you can help clean streams, hiking paths, parks or other areas of your community that need regular upkeep. If you are a sports enthusiast, volunteer as a youth sports coach. You can serve on the board of directors or on a committee of a local nonprofit even if you aren’t expert in their cause -- many board and committee members are business professionals who help steer the organization with expertise, rather than perform hands-on work.
If you perform a professional service, many nonprofits can benefit from your expertise. Charities operate similarly to many for-profit businesses and can use help with accounting, information technology, graphic design, advertising, public relations, website development, social media campaigns, and event planning and management. Join your local PTA and see if a local school can use your help. You don’t have to donate time on an ongoing basis -- if you’re an expert, one or two training sessions with a staff member of a school or other nonprofit can help them improve a key area of their operations.
Many charities gladly accept donations of goods, including used computer equipment, office furniture and supplies, or cleaning and maintenance items. If your company makes a product, ask your boss if the company donates or throws out old inventory, or ask your accounting manager what the tax benefit would be for donating slow-moving or excess product. The hassle of a moving sale might not be worth the couple hundred bucks you bring in -- consider taking a tax deduction for the personal donation of clothing, toys, sports and fitness equipment, computers and media. Some extreme couponers use their skill to donate thousands of dollars of consumer goods to charities each year, paying only a fraction of the cost to obtain the goods and getting a tax write-off.