Season For Giving – Tips For Charitable Giving

best christmas gifts 2013We all know the cliché that it is better to give than to receive which many people who give will agree with and the holidays are the time when many people give more to friends and family as well as to various charitable organizations whether in the form of money or the actual gifts. If the spirit of giving has overtaken you this holiday season because you have been blessed and in turn you want to bless the needy and less fortunate with some of the best Christmas gifts 2014 as well as in cold hard cash, here are some tips on charitable giving. And not forgetting the tax deduction that is another incentive for giving before the end of the year for the deduction to be claimed on this year’s tax return.

Charitable Giving

Many of us prefer to give to various charitable to help them fulfill their missions which may or may not resonate personally with us. However you pick the organizations to donate to, we always want to ensure that our contributions are helping someone. In order to find the right and most helpful charitable organization, you should consider the following.

1. Non Profit Status

Just because a website ends in .org does not mean that it is a charitable organization. Anyone can purchase a .org domain name.  You should instead verify that the charitable organization has been issued a 501(c)(3) designation by the IRS. This is important especially if you plan to claim your donations as deductions on your tax return. This designation also means that the organization makes financial information available publically. And also that the donations received are used for charity. Lastly, this designation also means that the organization follows the strict rules set forth on how much to spend on lobbyists in Washington.

To find out if the charitable organization you want to donate to is a 501(c)(3), go to www.GuideStar.org  which is a nonprofit database and enter the organization’s name and see whether it is included in this database.

2. Mission Statement

Look for charitable organizations that have detailed mission statements and not just general “end world hunger” statements. Most reputable charitable organizations have very detailed mission statements on what they do to help you get facts and figures about the organization. If this information is missing even after requesting it, choose another organization.

3. Spending Ratio

With far too many “charitable” organizations, the portion of donations received that is spent on charitable organizations is negligible compared to the amount spent on running the organization. It isn’t enough to simply give your hard earned money to any so called charitable organization. You need to make sure that a significant portion of the donations received are being used to provide the help and services documented in the organizations mission statement. Any organization you donate to should be making a difference in the local, national or international community.

A productive organization that is making a difference should be spending at least 75 percent of their total budgets on programs and services that help the community they serve. The remainder is what is spent on general expenses for running the organization including salaries, fundraisers, etc.

To find out the spending ratio of various charitable organizations, simply look at their financials or by contacting the organization. You can also obtain the most up to date financials on various nonprofits by going to www.charitynavigator.org for various charities’ financial reports.

4. Are They Helping?

As mentioned previously, most people who make donations want to know that their donations are making a difference in the lives of the needy and less fortunate. Contact the organization and find out if they have an assessment from a third party entity on the organization’s effectiveness. Most organizations have this assessment done and can easily provide you with the report on the latest assessment on the organization’s results.

So while you are shopping for the best Christmas gifts 2014, do not forget the less fortunate. The holidays are an especially great time to donate to various charities (in addition to the tax benefits.)

If you want to help various organizations through purchasing gifts, various organizations sell a wide variety of merchandise that will make great gifts this Christmas while also helping the organizations. To view this merchandise for different charitable organizations and hopefully find something you like and would like to give as a gift, click here.

Christmas Shopping On A Budget

best christmas gifts 2013Christmas time and the tradition of giving and receiving Christmas gifts can get very expensive. If money is not an object for you, lucky you. For the rest of us, buying Christmas presents can be a very expensive endeavor that can lead to credit card debt if not financially prepared for the expense or if you spend more than you were planning. While you do want to give the best Christmas gifts 2014, you also want to ensure that the New Year does not bring about financial worries with the huge credit card payment you will need to make. Here are some tips on Christmas shopping on a budget so that you can enjoy the holidays and the New Year with no financial worries.

Dealing with the financial problem that buying Christmas gifts brings is ensure that you set a budget beforehand. One of the factors that leads to financial stress during the holidays is when people start buying gifts all at once. Spreading out the purchases during the year can help alleviate the financial burden of gift shopping. Doing this will also ensure that you are not rushing around buying last minute gifts because you left it to the last part of the year to buy gifts. Spreading out the purchases during the year will also ensure that you will get the best Christmas gifts 2014 for your friends and family.

If you are concerned about overspending during your holiday shopping, setting a budget (and sticking to it!) before setting out on your shopping excursions will help prevent spending more than you have. Create a list of those you shall be buying Christmas presents for this year. Everyone from friends and family to colleagues, your children’s teachers, your mail carrier, doorman, etc. You may also want to set a budget for any toy drives in your area or other charitable gifts to various other organizations.

Once you have this list, start to list the Christmas gifts that will be perfect for each person on your list based upon how much you are willing to spend and what they like. You may also want to determine the total amount you want to spend and divide the amount equally among gift recipients. Or you can determine how much to spend on each person based on your relationship. You may want to spend more money on gifts for your close family and friends and less money on coworkers, the mailman, etc. This makes sense since I am sure you plan to purchase something extra special for one or two people on your Christmas list.

If you plan on spending more on some of the most important people on your gift recipient list who are most likely your close relatives, you can set the dollar amounts for these individuals and then the remainder may be divided equally among the rest of those on your Christmas list which may be the easiest way or you can continue down the list selecting a dollar amount for each person until you reach your budget.

If there are still people remaining on your list, you can reevaluate the dollar amounts assigned previously and make adjustments or eliminate these remaining people from your list.

Another way to ensure that everyone on your list gets something is to consider giving Christmas cards especially custom Christmas cards to the less significant people on your Christmas list. They will appreciate the gesture instead of just ignoring them and hoping you do not run into them during the holidays! For more on sending Christmas cards this year, click here.

Following these steps will ensure that you not only get the best Christmas gifts 2014 that you can afford but also ensures that you eliminate the financial stress that comes with holiday gift shopping.