Though we certainly enjoy receiving presents from loved ones and indulging in holiday foods this time of year, spending time giving back to your community makes the season feel more special and important.
If you’re thinking about helping your community this season, donating household items and clothing is a great place to start. Donation centers, crisis shelters, and food banks alike always need assistance from donors.
However, improper donation methods can actually do more harm than good. If you’re thinking about helping your community this season, do the most good by avoiding these three common donation mistakes:
1. Not Researching the Charity
While most charities are laudable organizations dedicated to helping others, sometimes, local charity efforts can be misguided or ineffective. Additionally, if you want your money to go to a specific cause, research can help you find a charity that is fighting the issues you care about most. To better see how a local charity operates, you can always volunteer to better understand the organization. Knowing more about where you place your donation money or items can help ensure that your contribution is making a difference.
2. Donating Dirty or Unacceptable Items
It can be tempting to use charity organizations as a guilt-free way to get rid of your household clutter. Since the average household spends $1,800 on clothing alone each year, in many families, there’s no shortage of unwanted stuff to purge. However, don’t just dump anything you no longer need in a donation box.
Many charities can’t accept certain household items. For example, area rugs often get rejected since they can hold insects and cumbersome amounts of dirt (up to a pound of dirt in a single square yard!) Common unacceptable items also include televisions, mattresses, out-of-date car seats, and batteries. Be sure to check your chosen charity’s donation guidelines before burdening the organization with useless stuff.
3. Forgetting to Claim Donations On Your Taxes
Though it may seem selfish, don’t forget to claim donations on your tax return. Your donations are tax deductible for the total value of the items you choose to donate. The donation incentive helps people keep giving every year, and it helps the IRS better understand whether or not people are donating in the first place. Be careful to follow government rules when claiming a charitable deduction; the IRS has specific deadlines and guidelines for processing claims.
To be safe, keep receipts from your donation efforts. You can even take pictures of the items you donate or write down the condition and estimated value of each item. The IRS will be more likely to recognize your donations if you keep organized records. Finally, if you want to put the donation on your taxes, be sure you’re working with a qualified organization recognized by the IRS.
When giving back this season, make sure that your donations are actually helping people in need, and use this guide to establish a smarter donation strategy. If you get organized and do your research, you’ll be able to stretch your dollars and your donations a little further this holiday.