The holiday season is a time to get together with friends and family, give gifts and share the joy of the season. We all have holiday traditions that we hold dear, and for many families, including my own, those holiday traditions include donating to charitable causes that we believe in. Over the years, my family and friends have chosen to give to charities in the spirit of the holidays or make charitable contributions in each other's honor instead of buying gifts. Our donations have benefited children’s hospitals, animal shelters, causes that support women's education in other countries, charities that help veterans and many others. In addition, we make a holiday season donation of items we no longer need to Goodwill®.
As a spokesperson for Goodwill Industries International, I've been fortunate to see firsthand how the revenues from a gently used pair of jeans — and many other donations — have helped people in the community find jobs, earn paychecks and care for their families. Goodwill's mission is to help people with disabilities and disadvantages build their careers. The people we help are very determined to make their lives better, and with a little support from Goodwill career counselors and staff, they not only build financial independence but also provide more stability for their children and their communities. It's hard not be inspired by this work!
There are many wonderful charities that do great things in our communities that deserve your support this holiday season. The holiday season is also a time to be careful and vigilant about fraudulent entities, however, as they may pose as charities in order to get your money. Below are some holiday donation tips to help guide your giving decisions this holiday season.
Do Your Research
You can make sure your donations will benefit the people who need them most by asking a few key questions: Will my donation be used to support a cause I believe in? What percentage of the revenues generated by my donation will directly support the nonprofit's mission? The answers you seek can be found through websites such as Philanthropedia and Charity Navigator. If you're unsure, don't hesitate to contact the charity directly. Legitimate charities are transparent about their missions and how donations are used, and they will be happy to share that information with you. Consider it a red flag if a charity refuses or is hesitant to share this information with you.
Give to Charities You Know and Trust
Sometimes fraudulent charities may modify the names of established groups, so be sure to read the charity’s name carefully the name before giving. Avoid giving to solicitors who ask for your credit card number over the telephone or request payment in cash only. Some for-profit companies operate thrift stores, yet they solicit donations under the name of a charity. In these cases, potential donors may not be informed of the arrangement between the charity and the for-profit company, and as little as 5 percent of the money generated from these donations may actually go to the charity. A donation to a charity is an investment in the community, so make sure the community benefits the most from your donation.
Holiday Giving Doesn't Always Mean Giving Money
There are many ways to be charitable without spending money. Volunteering is a great way to help worthy causes in your community. Think about the causes you believe in, as well as your professional skills and hobbies, and see how you can combine those aspects to serve the community. For example, if you want to help youth, consider becoming a mentor. Some Goodwill agencies have youth mentoring programs, where volunteer adult and peer mentors work with young people to build career plans to better plan their futures. Many professionals volunteer at Goodwill to review résumés or do practice interviews with people looking for work. In addition, cleaning out your closet and donating items you no longer need to Goodwill is a great way to clear clutter and support Goodwill’s job training programs.
Donate Gently Used Items
The holidays are a popular time to donate to Goodwill and get tax deductions before the end of the year. If you plan to donate items to Goodwill, here are some go-to tips.
- Wash or dry-clean clothing.
- Test electrical equipment and battery-operated items.
- Include all pieces and parts to children’s games and toys.
- Goodwill agencies vary regarding the kinds of donations they accept. For example, some Goodwill agencies accept vehicle donations while others do not. If you have any questions regarding what your local Goodwill can or cannot accept, check with the agency using our locator.
- Research the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website to determine if an item has been recalled. If you have an item that is recalled, check with your local authorities to determine what to do with those items.
Charities need your donations in order to help people in the community. No matter if you donate your money, time or used goods to charities, make sure your investment is used wisely.