As an animal lover, those ASPCA commercials get me every time. Kittens in an overcrowded cage followed by an older dog that clearly hasn’t been fed in a while and Sarah McLachlan softly singing in the background, driving the fundraising plea home. At that point, I’m ready to send money to someone, anyone, as long as I can change the channel without guilt.
As effective as the campaign is, I’ll bet there are plenty of animals in my Wisconsin hood that could also use my support. And beyond the animal shelters I also know of several food pantries and youth centers in my local community that could almost certainly use my help. In fact, there are so many non-profit organizations it’s a little overwhelming deciding which one to support. By narrowing it down to those needs or causes important to you personally, your donation feels much more meaningful. Focusing in on one or two organizations will make even more of an impact than stretching the same donation amount between five or six places.
As a community focused Madison credit union DCCU supports a number of local non-profits through monetary donations, like in the picture above where DCCU Branch Manager Jessie presents a donation to Operation Share & Care, a homeless vet assistance group in the VA Hospital in Madison. We also contribute to our community through donations of staff time and our DCCU Cares events. When you decide which causes you are considering donating to, check out their online presence. You’ll get idea of their overall structure, programs, and long-term goals. You can review their 990 tax filing form at Guidestar.org. Other sites that offer ratings and reviews on larger, more established nonprofits are the American Institute of Philanthropy, Charity Navigator, and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
Over the last ten years, social media has made an immense impact on both continued and natural disaster giving. Whereas before it was a personal check that had to be mailed in, you can now simply text in your donation. Funds are directly withdrawn from your DCCU account so more of your donation goes to relief rather than to the organization’s administrative costs.
In the case of natural disaster giving, it’s crucial to take some time and research organizations that have experience in rebuilding from natural disasters. At one time, the American Red Cross was the main group you could donate to after a hurricane or other devastating event. Today there are multiple organizations fully experienced in partnering with local governments to rebuild entire communities.
Finally, make sure to review IRS guidelines on deducting charitable contributions. Contributions to qualified organizations may lower your tax bill but it’s best to know beforehand about things like fair market value of donated items, receipting, and the assortment of IRS forms at your disposal.