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Charitable Donations: The Basics of Giving Explained

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Charitable giving is a personal and meaningful exercise. It is gratifying to give back to the resources entrusted to your care. Planning your charitable donations in advance can make this process even more empowering.

But how do we know where to donate, and what is the best way of giving? This article will explore the basics of charitable donations, from understanding tax deductions to knowing the best places to give.

We will also look at how you can make a real difference by donating wisely and with a purpose. By the end of this article, you will better understand the ins and outs of charitable donations and be able to make informed decisions about how to give.

What is a Charity Donation?

Charitable giving is a way to express your generosity and values throughout your lifetime. It can be enriching to put your resources toward causes that you feel passionate about. Making an intentional plan for your charitable donations can help you maximize the impact of your giving and ensure that your donations align with your values.

Charitable giving is a great way to show your support for causes and organizations you care deeply about. It can also be an essential part of your overall estate, tax, and financial planning, allowing you to maximize the impact of your giving and manage your finances more effectively.

Giving charitably is donating money, goods, stocks, or time to a charitable organization. It is essential because it helps fund the work of charities and organizations working to improve the lives of people in need.

Moreover, charity can also provide tax benefits for individuals and businesses, as well as a way to give back to a cause that is meaningful to them. Additionally, charitable giving can create a sense of community and foster relationships between donors and the organizations they support.

Types of Charitable Donations: Exploring the Different Types of Donations

Depending on the size of your estate, the amount of money you want to donate, and your desired approach to giving, you may be unsure which type of charitable giving is best for you and your philanthropic goals.

There are various ways to give, each with advantages and disadvantages that you should carefully consider before making a decision.

1. Donor-Advised Funds: DAF

When you open a donor-advised fund (DAF), you contribute to an account set aside for future charitable donations. This money will remain in the fund until you decide who should receive it, anytime from the next month to years in advance.

A donor-advised fund (DAF) is a type of charitable giving where you donate an irrevocable amount, such as cash or securities, to a nonprofit organization of your choice. In 2022, grants from donor-advised funds to charities totaled over $34 billion.

One advantage of this type of giving is that you can direct the fund's administrator to make grants to the causes or organizations you are most passionate about. Additionally, you can take advantage of the maximum tax benefit from the IRS for your contribution and set up the fund to continue even after your death.

Although donor-advised funds can have a more complex tax structure than other forms of charitable giving, your bank or wealth manager can help you make contributions to a DAF that comply with IRS regulations.

The versatility of donor-advised funds is also an attractive feature. Donors can change their minds about which charities to support and make small and large donations to various charities during their lifetime and after their passing.

2. Real Estate

If you own a property you no longer need and would incur a hefty tax bill if you sell it, donating it to charity is wise. If you still live in the property, you can arrange for it to become a charitable gift by transferring its deed after your death. This will lower your estate taxes, while in some cases, you may also qualify for a tax deduction equal to the property's fair market value.

It is important to note that the IRS requires you to file Form 8283 for non-cash contributions of property valued at more than $500, and donations of real estate must also be appropriately documented.

3. Cash Donations

A cash gift is the most straightforward form of charitable giving. Your tax deduction equals the amount of cash you donated minus any goods or services you received in return. This includes memberships to nonprofit organizations, such as a zoo or museums. You cannot transfer titles, certificates, or stocks in a cash donation.

The main advantage of a cash gift is its simplicity - there are no complicated tax deductions or benefits to consider. However, you must keep a record of the cash contribution, as the IRS will only allow you to deduct cash contributions, no matter how small, with proof of receipt of the donation.

4. Stocks

Donating long-term appreciated securities, like stocks, is one of the most tax-efficient ways to give. When you give in this way, you don’t have to worry about capital gains taxes because you’re not selling your stocks.

In addition, you can donate any stocks you’ve owned for over a year and are now worth more than the original cost, and you’ll get a tax deduction equal to the stock’s total fair market value. This is an incredibly beneficial way to give, as it can help you save money on taxes while supporting a cause you care about.

5. Charitable Trusts

Charitable trusts are a type of legal entities created to donate to charity. Charitable trusts are often established by an individual or a company and can be used to provide tax deductions and other benefits to the donor. Charitable trusts can be used to donate money to any registered charity or non-profit organization and are often used to support specific causes, such as education, health care, poverty relief, or other causes.

Charitable trusts are also often used to set up endowments, which are invested and used to support a charity's activities over time. Charitable trusts are a great way to give back to the community and support important causes while also taking advantage of tax deductions.

6. Assets

Donating your assets to charity comes with several benefits, such as a charitable income tax deduction and not having to recognize the gifted income as part of your estate. Additionally, leaving tax-deferred accounts in your estate for your beneficiaries can provide them with a nice inheritance that won't be taxed.

Moreover, if you donate tangible items such as art and jewelry, you may be eligible for a tax deduction equal to the value of the assets. However, you may receive an even higher deduction if the asset is related to the charity. It is important to remember to document any gifts made to charity, including the type of donation, the name of the organization, the date of the donation, and the amount of the donation.

The Benefits of Charitable Donations

Charitable donations can be an enriching experience for the donor. They provide the opportunity to give back to the community and make a difference in people’s lives. The benefits of donating to charity include tangible and intangible rewards, such as tax deductions and the sense of satisfaction from helping others.

Financial Benefits:

One of the most obvious financial benefits of charitable donations to the donor is the potential for tax deductions. Donating can be claimed as a deduction on your tax return, reducing the amount of taxes you owe. This can be especially advantageous for those who donate large sums of money, as the tax savings can be significant.

One of the most common tangible benefits of making a charitable donation is the tax deduction associated with the donation. Depending on the country, donations may be deductible from a donor’s taxable income, which can significantly reduce the donor’s tax burden. Additionally, charitable donations might be eligible for additional tax breaks or credits, such as sales or estate tax deductions.

Personal Satisfaction:

The most rewarding benefit of donating to charity is the sense of personal satisfaction that comes with it. Donating to a worthy cause can give a donor a feeling of accomplishment and pride in knowing their contribution is positively impacting the world. Charitable donations can also promote greater compassion, understanding, and empathy by helping those who are less fortunate.

Connections with Others:

Charitable donations also provide an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who share the same values and goals. Donors can join donation campaigns, volunteer opportunities, or other charitable events to meet and engage with people who care about the same causes. This can help build strong social connections and foster meaningful relationships with people in the same community.

In conclusion, charitable donations can provide both tangible and intangible benefits to the donor. By donating to charity, donors can receive tax deductions, experience a sense of personal satisfaction, and even connect with other individuals who share their values. Charitable donations are an excellent way for donors to give back to the community and make a real difference in people’s lives.

How to Make Charitable Donations

If you really want to make a difference, charitable donations are a surefire way to start. There are many different organizations with good causes to choose from. Most non-profit organizations people find worthy of donating to are usually about cases like poverty, world hunger, etc.

While these may all be worthy causes, one that requires more attention concerns children with speech disorders, like the California Scottish Rite Foundation. They offer programs to help these special needs children. One such program is The RiteCare Childhood Language Center.

The RiteCare Childhood Language Centers of California rely solely on private donations to continue their mission of helping children with speech, language, and literacy disorders. They do not receive state or federal funds, and all donations to a Childhood Language Center will be restricted to use at that specific Center and the community it serves.

Make a Difference Today – Your gift today can make a difference and help improve a child’s life! By donating, you can genuinely impact and touch a child’s life.

Tax Implications of Charitable Donations

The tax benefits of making a charitable contribution are determined by the recipient organization (only donations to eligible charities are deductible), the way you structure the gift, and the kind of property you choose to donate.

Charitable donations can have significant tax implications for both individuals and businesses. Donations of cash, securities, and other property may be deductible in the year they are made. However, the deductibility of a donation is subject to specific eligibility requirements, such as a minimum donation amount, the organization's level of tax exemption, and the item's fair market value.

Individuals can generally deduct up to 60% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in the tax year of the donation. On the other hand, businesses can deduct up to 25% of their taxable income in the tax year of the donation. In addition, any excess donations over the annual limits may be carried forward to the following five tax years.

Certain restrictions apply to deductible donations. Contributions to individuals, political action committees, and for-profit organizations are not eligible for a deduction. Likewise, donations of inventory, services, and use of property are generally not deductible.

Charitable donations may also be subject to certain estate and gift tax exemptions. For example, the federal estate tax exemption for a deceased spouse's estate could be increased if the executor of the estate includes a charitable donation in the estate.

Similarly, gifts of $15,000 or less per recipient per year may be exempt from the federal gift tax.

Overall, donors should carefully consider the tax implications of their donations and consult a qualified tax advisor to ensure they comply with applicable laws.

Ultimately, the most crucial factor in donating is finding an organization that resonates with you and that you would like to support. Any tax benefits you may receive as a result of your donation are simply an added bonus. Therefore, it is vital to research the various donation strategies and vehicles available and consult with a financial planner, tax advisor, or philanthropic advisor to determine the best way to give that suits your situation.


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