Generosity, Without a Checkbook
Wall Street Journal, By Veronica Dagher (Wall Street Journal) Dec. 7, 2013 9:00 p.m. ET
Don’t wait until the last minute, though. Your brokerage firm will likely need several days to complete the transfer, which must be completed before Dec. 31 if you want the deduction on your 2013 tax return.
2. Use technology.
When you do an Internet search, you can raise money for a cause by using a search engine such as GoodSearch.com. You could also use GoodShop.com to shop at stores such as Amazon.com, AMZN -2.59% Target or Nike NKE -1.29% to get a percentage of what you spend donated to your cause.
You could install a giving app such as Charity Miles that allows you to earn money and raise awareness for charities by walking, running or biking.
VolunteerMatch helps you find volunteer opportunities from your iPhone or iPad, and with every photo you share through Donate a Photo, Johnson & Johnson JNJ -1.33% donates $1 to a cause you want to help.
Charitable giving season is underway and there a few giving mistakes you need to avoid.
3. Volunteer your time.
If you’re strapped for cash, especially around the holidays, volunteer your time, says Chris Spaugh, a philanthropic specialist for Wells Fargo WFC -0.81% Private Bank in Winston-Salem, N.C.
You could deliver meals to the homebound, shovel snow outside your house of worship, or offer to help with the cause’s social-media campaign.
In addition to allowing you give back, volunteering will give you a firsthand look at the charity’s work and see how you could help more in the future, say by joining its board.
Baltimore financial planner Lazetta Rainey Braxton encourages clients to donate their professional services—whether it be accounting, baby sitting or fundraising—to organizations they’re passionate about.
Be sure to check with your human-resources department, as some companies will make a donation to the charity to match your volunteer hours.
4. Donate your property.
Find local charities that are in need of the things you want to part with, says Ms. Bulen.
Has junior outgrown yet another size? Contact the local church or Salvation Army store and ask if they know of a child who could use the clothes.
Schools might make use of books, paper and art supplies, and local shelters might need extra blankets. You could also ask your favorite nonprofit if it has a “wish list” of in-kind donations and see if you have anything that you could donate, says Dennis McCarthy, vice president of strategy for Boston-based Blackbaud, which provides software to nonprofits. You also may be able to donate your airline miles or points to charity. If you itemize on your federal tax return, you can claim a deduction for the donated items, says Ms. Bulen. Goodwill.org has a guide to help you to estimate the value of various items.
If you’re able to donate a more significant asset such as land or gold coins, check with your chosen charity first to see if it accepts gifts beyond cash or appreciated securities. Not all charities have the resources or capabilities to accept such assets, says Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable in San Francisco.
You should also consult with your accountant before proceeding with the donation, says Benjamin Pierce, president of Vanguard Charitable in Malvern, Pa.
If the charity is unable to accept the asset directly, you could work with a third-party intermediary such as a donor-advised fund or community foundation to facilitate the donation.
5. Give your IRA distribution.
If you’re 70½ or older, you can give all or part of your Required Minimum Distribution to a qualified charity, says Scott O’Brien, a financial planner in Austin, Texas.
You can make a charitable donation of up to $100,000 per year (cash only, not stocks) from your IRA and not report the IRA distribution as taxable income on your federal tax return.
Most important, you need to clearly communicate your intentions for your charitable contribution to your IRA custodian to make sure the donated money is sent directly to the charity, he says. If you get the distribution sent to you and then send the money to the charity, in most cases you won’t reap the tax benefits, says Mr. O’Brien.
But even if you’re feeling very generous, check with your financial planner before making any moves—especially if you’re on a fixed income. “Be careful that you don’t need the money,” says Philip Lee, a financial planner in Boston.
6. Think long-term.
Naming your favorite charity as a beneficiary of your IRA is a great way to make a gift, says Susan Elser, a financial planner in Indianapolis.
You can easily name a charity as a percentage beneficiary by completing a beneficiary change form, she says. “You don’t have to rewrite your will,” says Ms. Elser.