5 Questions to Consider Before Donating Time or Money

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That time of year is quickly approaching; when we are inundated more frequently with pleas and requests for donations. While giving in and of itself can be rewarding, there are so many questions that can and should be asked. Is the organization reputable, when will I receive my tax receipt, where does the donation actually go?

Is there a way to know which questions you should be asking and who you should give your time or money to?

Here are the 5 questions I consider before donating my time or money

1. Is it recognized as a registered charitable organization?

The Canada Revenue Agency website (CRA) makes it easy to see not only if the organization is registered, but it also gives the effective date of registration, contact information and general activities.  Through this link you can also make an informal request for additional information, free of charge.  Some of the information you could receive is; a copy of the charity’s governing documents, a list of the charity’s directors/trustees and a copy of the public information from a charity’s annual information return with financial statements.

This can be a great eye-opener as to how much is being spent on advertising, third party fundraisers and general overhead when compared to funds spent on programs and clients.  I also use this link when preparing personal tax returns for clients when I don’t recognize the name of the charity. Buying tickets to a circus to benefit you is a good cause and a fundraiser, but is not recognized as a charitable donation for tax purposes even if you get a receipt.

2. Do I want to give my time or my money?

Over the years I have done both.  From a time perspective I’ve helped on committees with fundraisers and program development, been a board member, visiting volunteer, online and in-house counselor. At the beginning of each year I determine which charities I will donate funds to.  When I get phone calls asking for donations I ask them to send me either documentation, a link or website address.  Based on that information I will decide if I want to include them as a recipient of my donations next year.  And giving your charge card information based on an unsolicited phone call is not smart money management. And you shouldn’t have to make that kind of decision immediately.

3. How does it make me feel? This is just as important to me as any other questions I have regarding donating. Some charities pull on my heart-strings because of the help or education they have supplied to friends, family and associates. There are so many valuable charitable organizations in need of our hard earned money. But unless you’re in the top 1% of the population, you can’t give to all of them.  And it becomes more difficult to keep track of whether you’ve received all your donation receipts at tax time.

So donating to my selected charities each year makes me feel good.  I no longer feel guilty when going through a check-out and the cashier asks me if I would like to make a donation to the charity of the moment. I don’t feel pressured when my neighbour is knocking on my door asking for money. I feel educated and in control.

4. Do I donate locally or nationally?

I do both. The national charities I’ve chosen are based on support and research, as it relates to the impact they’ve had on family members.   Locally I’ve been involved with Doane House Hospice for over 20 years.  And in the past year I’ve been involved with a relatively new organization called 100 Women Who Care.  We vote on which local charitable organization will receive our financial support each quarter. This organization has a worldwide reach but is established to help organizations locally.  I’ve learned so much about local organizations that I didn’t even know existed until I became a member. And I feel like I’m really helping those in the community.

5. What impact does donating have on my personal tax return?

The simplified answer is that this is a non-refundable tax credit, which reduces your federal tax liability.  Depending on your income you could receive a credit of 15% for the first $200 donated and 29% credit on an amount greater than $200. It may be more beneficial to accumulate your donations over a number of years to get the 29% credit.  You can carry these forward for 5 years.  If you’re a first time donor there is a Donor’s Super Credit. For more information on eligible donations and gifts see CRA. And to calculate the impact donations could have on your tax return see the Charitable Donation Tax Credit Calculator.

After all I’ve shared, you need to know that I still donate to other organizations.  At this time of year I buy a number of poppies, since I seem to lose them within 24 hours.  And I donate to the charity of choice, in lieu of flowers, for funerals and celebrations of life.

If you’ve had a good or bad experience in donating your time or money I would like you to share that information with me.  It could just be a warning to others or encouraging all of us to give more as we enter the holiday season of giving.

You can  connect with me by clicking the contact tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website or you can leave your information in the form of a comment right here on the site.

Until next time,

Maureen

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