It is time to get our giving in order, and there’s no time better than today. But do you keep track of every donation? Are there possibly ones you are forgetting? Often times, charitable gifts fall into different buckets in our mental budget since they relate to organizations or individuals that aren’t primarily charitable in our minds. Before making any decisions in the coming year about how to allocate charitable commitments, we suggest inventorying all the places you might be giving already. Below, are a few areas commonly forgotten to track in your mental inventory:
Did NPR’s annual drive catch your attention a few years ago and you don’t realize that you’re still giving? Or is your alma mater still debiting your annual gift? Make a note of all of the recurring donations that you might not think about any more by flipping through your bank or credit card statements. Give some thought to whether or not the amount is right for you this year (and beyond), and if you feel comfortable continuing an automated donation. These gifts can add up over time and deserve some evaluation. Bear in mind, recurring gifts are a life source for nonprofits that can better plan and execute on their missions when they know what their donation cash flow is month to month.
Many of us buy tickets to a special exhibit at a museum, for example, and then opt to bundle an annual membership with it. Alternatively, perhaps the children’s programming was free with an adult membership. Are there museums, theatres, or other cultural institutions that you have an annual membership? Give some thought to how you’re using the benefits associated with your membership level, or look them up if you don’t know what they are. Then decide if the level or membership still works for you and feels valuable. Keep in mind that donations where you receive something in return, even if you don’t exercise the right to use it, are only credited as the amount donated above the value of the products or services received in return for tax purposes. So, if you want to support the organization and are not using the membership benefits, you may want to switch to a pure donation instead.
Places of Worship
For many individuals, supporting their faith institution is considered something separate than a donation, even though they are just that (again – same caveat as above, all donations are always counted for tax purposes less any value received in return). But this is another category where we can step back and give some thought to the amount and also to the timing, particularly in relation to all the other areas where we’re committing donations. Is your membership fee being paid at a time that’s convenient for you? Do you normally make a gift around holiday time that now seems like too much of a stretch for you? Give thought to the total amount and when you’re gifting it throughout the year.
Did you buy tickets to that charity fashion show because your good friend was on the host committee? What about the obligatory table or sponsorships you purchased because you did so last year. Saying ‘no’ to friends and colleagues can feel uncomfortable, but if you track the various commitments you have made socially, it will make it easier to prioritize the ones you want to keep, or maybe even increase. Similarly, being able to explain why you’re not supporting a cause this year becomes easier when you can point to your support of something else.
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