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Informed Charitable Giving Tips

At La Crosse Community Foundation we believe anyone can be a philanthropist. You don’t have to have a lot of wealth or an elaborate plan to “do good.”

We encourage anyone considering charitable giving – in any amount – to make informed giving decisions by following these tips:

  • If tax incentives are a consideration, be sure that the organization is recognized by the IRS as a 501c(3) organization. You can check online for an organization’s status by searching third party sites like guidestar.org or through the IRS Charity Check database at www.irs.gov
  • Crowdfunding campaigns like GoFundMe and KickStarter might be run by individuals or causes that may not be associated with a charitable organization. Be sure to “vet” these campaigns carefully before giving. Keep in mind that giving to individuals is not tax-deductible.
  • Be wary of organizations that report having no fundraising or administrative costs. While everyone wants to see program dollars maximized, remember that administrative and fundraising expenses are an indispensable part of running an organization. These ensure efficiency, accountability and compliance with the law. Healthy overhead leads to more stable operations and sustainable funding streams. The BBB indicates up to 35% is an acceptable admin/fundraising overhead.
  • Make a point of knowing about the charities you are supporting. Ask around. Check out websites, social media pages or other communications. Don’t be shy in asking for more detailed information. It is not uncommon for donors to review mission statements, programs, recent accomplishments, the governing board, personnel and finances.
  • For in-depth financial information, you can review a charity’s Form 990. Many organizations post this on their website, or you can look it up on guidestar.org.

In addition to making informed giving decisions, you can also implement these giving strategies to make a bigger impact with your charitable giving:

  • Sharpen your focus – Identify the causes you care about most, and create a giving plan/budget for each one. Don’t just give when asked by a friend or fundraiser for things you don’t even necessarily care about.
  • Consider making fewer, larger gifts – While it is true that any gift is a good gift, it is harder to see the impact of your giving when its divided among a dozen or so nonprofits rather than only a few. A good recommendation is to consider the 50/30/20 rule with your charitable giving budget. Focus 50% of your giving a select few charities most meaningful to you, 30% for community gifts to your church or children’s school and the remaining 20% for impulse gifts like unplanned donations to support disaster relief or a friend’s fundraising drive.
  • Commit for the long-term – Lasting change takes time and continued resources. You will feel more engaged in the progress of the programs you support if you develop a personal relationship with the charities you support.

We recommend the following resources to “vet” organizations for your charitable giving: