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Appeal Letters are Arriving.......What do you Do?

You've probably already received a couple of them in your mailbox. I'm talking about the annual appeal letters from charities that will be commonplace over the next few weeks. It only makes sense because most of our giving to nonprofits takes place in the last quarter of the year.

Add to that fact, Giving Tuesday is a global movement that encourages people to donate to causes they care about on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Some organizations may even be eligible for a match that day. With so many options and so much information, how can you make sure you are giving wisely and effectively as a donor?

Given our work with nonprofits, we’ve chosen to share some tips on how to make intelligent and impactful donations based on our experience and research. Here are the steps we recommend you follow before and after you give.

1. Identify your values and goals. What are the issues that matter most to you? What are the outcomes you want to see? How do you want to make a difference in the world?

2. Make a plan. Decide how much you want to give, how often, and how long. Set a budget and stick to it. Consider different ways of giving, such as one-time donations, recurring donations, matching gifts, or legacy gifts.

3. Do your homework. Research the organizations that address the issues you care about. Look for evidence of their impact, transparency, accountability, and sustainability. Check their ratings and reviews on platforms like Charity Navigator or GuideStar/Candid.

4. Compare your options. Don't just pick the first organization that appeals to you. Compare different organizations based on their mission, vision, strategy, results, and costs. Think about how they align with your values and goals.

5. If you will itemize when you file your taxes, consider what tax benefits may exist. Giving appreciated assets may also eliminate the need to pay capital gains tax on the amount of the asset you choose to give.

6. Follow up and learn. Don't just give and forget. Stay in touch with the organizations you support and see how they use your donations. Ask for feedback and reports on their progress and challenges. Learn from their successes and failures and adjust your giving accordingly.

Follow these six steps and you will make more informed and effective charitable donations this Giving Tuesday and beyond.

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