Donating This Holiday Season

'Tis the season to get envelope after envelope from a variety of charities asking for holiday donations.

Donating money or goods to charity is a fine and noble thing to do - any time of year.  However, there is a way to do this without clogging up the mailbox!  Just a few simple steps:

1) Toss those envelopes directly into the recycling bin when they show up in the mail!  I realize some of them come with those wonderfully sticky address labels or greeting cards.  Or charms.  Or key chains.  Those items should only make their way in to the house if you are actually going to use them.  For example, if yesterday you were cursing yourself as you wrote your return address on 20 envelopes, maybe keeping the labels is a good idea.  Or, if you've been thinking you needed another key chain as you took out your janitor's hook, then perhaps the key chain will be helpful.  If you feel guilty about tossing usable items like note cards and charms in the recycling or trash bin, add them to your ongoing bag of donations.

2) If you're not sure which charities to send money to, research them online.  Make sure their values align with yours.  You'll also want to find out what your donation will support and how much of that donation will get used for which services.  There are some great websites that do all that work for you: 
  • Charity Navigator evaluates and classifies a variety of charities.  It informs you of the charities' financial health, as well.
  • Charity Watch is sponsored by the American Institute of Philanthropy.  This site grades and rates charities; it can be searched by type of charity or alphabetical listing.
  • Which Charity does not rate charities, but rather allows you to find one by type of charity or by what type of donation you'd like to make (money, time, goods, volunteer, etc.). 
  • Cards That Give and Good Cause Greetings (note this site is a commercial, not charitable site) both list organizations that produce and sell greeting cards to help support their causes.  If you're not going to send holiday cards, skip these links!   
3) Decide on which charity or charities you'll donate to this year.  Go to the organization's website and donate online.  They will email you a receipt for tax purposes.  You can save your receipt to your tax file.  No writing checks.  No finding stamps.  No running out to the mailbox.  If there is an option for receiving information from the charity when you are donating online, click the options that will send you information online, not in paper form - and only if it's information you want and will really read.

4) If the envelopes keep showing up in the mail, annoying you, grab one or two at a time before they hit the recycling bin.  On each there should be a phone number where you can contact them.  Call the number and inform them you're doing your giving online now.  Ask to be removed from their mailing list so they can save the postage and the amount of paper hitting the curb.

5) Enjoy the holiday season knowing you've helped a cause near and dear to your heart, in as stress-free (and green!) a way as possible!

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