‘Tis the season for charitable giving: 5 tips for savvy donors

(BPT) – While many people may be thinking of pumpkins, apple picking and football in the fall, this time of year also marks the beginning of the holiday giving season.

Savvy donors understand the practical benefit of giving before the end of the calendar year — to ensure credit is received on their next tax return. In fact, about 34 percent of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year, according to Blackbaud Inc., a leading supplier of software and data intelligence services for nonprofit organizations.

If you are planning to support a charitable organization this holiday season, consider these tips for smart giving.

Do your research. More than 1 million charities are registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Compare organizations and study how they function by visiting sites such as the Better Business Bureau. The best charitable organizations ensure that the majority of their revenue goes to the causes they support, not operating expenses.

Only give to registered charities. In order to accept donations, most charitable organizations — depending on the state – must be registered with the Department of Justice (DOJ). Before you donate, check your state’s DOJ database to confirm the organization is registered.

Make sure your gift is tax-deductible. The government recognizes the value of charitable organizations, so many contributions to approved charities are tax-deductible. The key to receiving a tax deduction is making sure the charitable organization you choose is qualified by the IRS. To be sure, visit the IRS website. You must also keep accurate records, so get a written acknowledgment or receipt for your financial contribution.

For those who can’t afford to contribute financially to a cause, there are other ways to make a positive local impact throughout the year.

Do business with companies that also give back. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, corporate giving in 2015 increased to $18.46 billion — a 3.9 percent increase from $17.77 billion in 2014. Companies — large and small — are finding new ways to enhance their own corporate giving.

For instance, Ply Gem Industries, a leading U.S. manufacturer of home building products including windows, siding, roofing and more, recently launched the Home for Good project to build affordable housing across America. The company made a multi-year commitment to donate more than $1 million in products and funds to Habitat for Humanity — helping build nearly 300 homes in 2016 alone – with company associates and industry professionals also volunteering their time to support the project.

“Corporations today have an obligation to the communities they serve,” says Gary E. Robinette, chairman and CEO, Ply Gem Industries. “In fact, multiple studies show that consumers are increasingly more willing to do business with companies that make positive social impacts. Ply Gem’s Home for Good project embodies this philosophy while ensuring that we help make the communities where we live, work and play better.”

Take your giving beyond a monetary donation by getting involved. The holiday season often serves as a reminder for citizens to give back by volunteering their time. Check out programs like Home for Good, which offer the opportunity to volunteer in cities across the United States. To find ways to make a difference in your area, visit www.HomeForGoodProject.com.

By following these tips, you can make a difference this season and reduce your tax burden for the upcoming year.