As you plan your charitable year-end giving, decide how to select the right charity and determine how much of your hard-earned money to give to the charity of your choice. Here are 5 tips to help you pick the best charity for your year-end giving and donating so that you can make the most of your money.

year-end-tips-for-donating-to-charitiesBecause the holidays and the year-end are fast approaching, you might be thinking about making some last-minute donations to a few charities. Many charities depend on donations so even giving a little could help out a lot this holiday season. You should know that charities tend to rely on these year-end donations. Your choice of charity should be ranked high and a charity that used its funds effectively with low overhead costs.

At the end of every year, my husband Sam and I go through our stack of donation requests and spend a couple of hours making charitable donations online for the end of the year. But with so many different charities and organizations out there, it can be hard to know what to look for when giving year-end contributions to a charity.

1. Research the charity before giving away your hard-earned money.
Before you give away your hard-earned money to a charity, my first tip is to make sure you know exactly what they do and how they do it. Research the charity online and see what kind of results come up. Do most of the donations pay the salaries of executives or do the donations go to the people the charity is actually trying to help? The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a National Charity Report Index that will tell you if a charity has met its standards. Generally, you want a charity that has low costs and overhead and gives away the highest percentage of each dollar it receives.

2. Ask if your donation is tax deductible.
The second tip is to remember to ask if the money you are giving or donating to the charity is tax deductible before you give your hard-earned money away. Not all donations are tax deductible, so make sure your cash donation qualifies for a tax deduction. Check on the IRS website at www.IRS.gov before you make your donation to see if you’ll qualify for a tax deduction on your federal income tax return. And you absolutely must have a receipt or record of the transaction in order to be able to deduct it from your taxes.

3. Give your hard-earned money to a local charity.
My third tip is to see your donation at work right before your eyes, give your hard-earned money to a local charity in your own community. You’ll not only help members of your own community but your donation can also strengthen the local economy. If you’re having trouble thinking of a local charity you’d like to help, check out the directory on the Charity Navigator site.

4. Make sure the charity’s website is secure.
Tip number 4 is to make sure your financial information is secure when you donate or give money. Many charitable organizations make it easy for you to give by allowing you to make donations online. But it’s still up to you to make sure your personal information is safe and secure when paying on their website. A quick way to do that is to look at the link. If the link starts with “https” and has a lock button to the left, then that charity’s website is secure and it will encrypt your data, keeping your personal information safe.

5. Don’t give your hard-earned money to charity scams.
Tip number 5 is that in the midst of the gift-giving frenzy, the holiday season is also a time when scam artists try to take advantage of your generosity to charities. One way they do this is by creating fake charities. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says you should never give or send cash donations to a charity and to always be wary of random calls or emails asking for donations. Don’t hand over your hard-earned money without researching the charity first. Like I mentioned in the first tip, you can never do enough research on your selected charity.

Charities need more than money, though. You can donate goods as well, such as food or clothing. If you have the time, look into volunteering too. Many charities need volunteers to keep their doors open over the holidays and year-round.

So for the holidays and year-end, these 5 tips should help you find the right charity for you and help make sure that the money you worked hard to earn finds the right place with the right charity.