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Charitable Donations in Intense Times

Jessica Lanning
June 2020

Most of my clients donate to charity. Some do it in a small way, some in a big way. Some have a specific strategy and some take a more haphazard approach.  With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, the calls for donations are peaking, and hurricane season recently started.  What charities do you support?  How do you know they will spend your money the way you want it to be spent?  Do you withdraw donations from one charity to support another now?

First, figure out the cause you want to support. There is no lack of need; start by thinking broadly. Women?  Children?  Veterans?  Animals?  Environment?  Hunger?  Health?  Education? The list of possibilities goes on, so get clear about that first. Then, if you’re feeling drawn to donate because of a particular event, like the pandemic or the protests, find the charity serving that particular need. For instance, you might want to support LGBTQ rights and you’re mortified by George Floyd’s death.  Consider finding an LGBTQ charity that is a bail fund or focuses on people of color.

Second, spend some time analyzing your motivation.  Donate to causes that are personal to you and where you want to make a difference.  If your “why” for donating turns out to be a way to assuage guilt or shame, to meet a familial or peer-pressured obligation, to get a tax donation or to gain bragging rights, you’re probably off the mark.

Third, do your due diligence.  A good referral helps, but don’t stop there.  A quick web search of your desired charity will give you a sense of how money gets spent.  There are many websites that verify charitable organizations; you can put the name of the charity and the words “fraud” or “scam” into a web search.  Donate with in-kind goods or your credit card.  Gift card donations are a red flag.

Fourth, send your donation with love.  Ideally, you’re donating from a place of gratitude and abundance, wanting to serve those who are less fortunate.  Connect with those feelings as you make your donation.  The world certainly needs more of that.

If you would like more guidance on charitable giving, donor-advised funds and creating charitable strategies for estate tax planning purposes, please be in touch.