Published December 14, 2017.
Make the most of what you give.
If you have time, talent, or treasure, you can make a difference at any of hundreds of Inland Northwest nonprofit organizations doing good works.
If you have time, talent, or treasure, you can make a difference at a nonprofit organization doing good works.
But where to start? And how to make the biggest impact with the resources you have?
Sherry Wallis, an STCU member and financial educator, suggests three questions to help direct your philanthropic urges:
What's important to you?
Look for organizations that align with your goals and values. That may be a one-person neighborhood center or a big international relief organization.
"Many people make charitable contributions from the heart," Wallis says. "Something may have once touched their own lives, and now they are drawn to organizations that address those same needs."
Is the organization effective?
Once you've identified a charitable cause where you might volunteer or make a donation, research the organization to ensure its spending and management practices are transparent and efficient.
Wallis recommends GuideStar.org, the Better Business Bureau, and official social media pages as online resources to help gauge the reputation and effectiveness of a charitable organization. Referrals from friends can help, or visit the charity for a first-hand experience.
"Knock on their door and interview folks who work there," she says. "One of the absolute best ways to learn about a charitable organization is to volunteer. You'll see from your own observations whether they're truly mission-focused."
“Nonprofits are always looking for volunteers, [but] if it's easier to give money, then do so, and do it joyfully.”
Should I volunteer, donate, or both?
If you don't have the budget to donate, then volunteer. But if you don't have the time to volunteer, then donate.
Either way, your help will be invaluable to charities operating on a tight budget.
"Nonprofits are always looking for volunteers," Wallis says, adding that the Volunteer Spokane website and the United Way of North Idaho keep a database of volunteer opportunities.
"If it's easier to give money, then do so, and do it joyfully," she says. "Some charities provide a chart that shows what a dollar amount will buy. That helps get our heads around the tangible results of a donation."
When donating, she says, be sure your contributions never exceed what your household budget can handle. Rather than give a lump sum, many donors set up modest, monthly subscription-style contributions to the nonprofit. That makes it easier on your pocketbook — and for the organization planning future expenses.
Unrestricted donations are particularly helpful, Wallis adds, because a nonprofit can use unrestricted funds for monthly costs such as staffing and operations.
Your giving may be deductible.
Federal income tax laws allow you to deduct certain gifts. Your donation to a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization may be tax deductible, so consult your tax adviser before donating.
And while other, spontaneous donations may not be tax deductible, they often are worth it.
"A donation to a spaghetti feed fundraiser for a beloved school coach who's fighting cancer may not count as a valid tax write-off, but you may want to donate anyway," Wallis says. "That's giving from the heart."
- Your time, talent, or treasure can make a difference.
- Give to organizations important to you.
- Ask friends which nonprofits are effective. Or do research at GuideStar.org, the Better Business Bureau, and official social media sites.
- Modest, monthly contributions help nonprofits budget for expenses.
- Consider leaving money to an organization in your will to ensure a lasting legacy.
- Your contributions may be tax deductible, so consult your tax adviser.