Three Simple Tips on How to Give During the Holiday Season

Give Locally and Get to Know the Charity of Your Choice

The season of giving is upon us, and when it comes to charity, giving also means receiving benevolent satisfaction when helping our less-fortunate neighbors. Here at Balcomb & Green, P.C., our estate planners advise our clients on how to maximize tax-deductible financial gifts to recognized, registered, well-run charities–those officially categorized by the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c)(3), tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations.

As immediate past president of the board of directors of United Way Battlement to the Bells (UWBB), and having served on many other community organizations’ committees and boards, I know for certain that there are three simple rules to follow when giving to a nonprofit:

1) First, give locally! According to various economic studies, every dollar given to local causes can churn multiple times in a community. Funds may be allocated to help pay professional office staff and counselors to efficiently and effectively carry out the mission of their respective organizations while managing every dollar spent. Nonprofit management is a professional job category, and local employment contributes to the local economy. Often, nonprofit social programs can be run less-expensively than can local-government programs bound by extensive federal, state and county requirements. That’s why our local governments work hand-in-hand with our local charities.

Also, your charitable donations could be used by local nonprofits for programs that support local businesses. For example, donations may be used to help directly pay landlords, utility companies and other necessities for needy clients. Those landlords then spend their money in their community, and our utility companies pay their employees, who also then continue the local money churn. As we UWBB board members often remind ourselves, when you give locally, monies raised here, stay here.

2) Second, follow your passion. My UWBB board-president successor and local business consultant Chris May and his wife have two young daughters, so Chris was drawn to our local United Way because of its support of granting funds to local nonprofit programs that focus on reading proficiency by fourth grade. Whether it is cancer, mental health, or childhood literacy, being passionate about a cause increases your engagement and benefit to the community.

Whether your interest centers on animal rescue, autistic children, trail building, or feeding the hungry, there’s at least one, if not multiple, nonprofits that need your donations to continue their vital work. According to United Way America–the umbrella organization that guides, monitors compliance, and verifies approved governance standards for the nearly 1,800 independent, locally-focused United Way offices spread across the country–more than 600 IRS-recognized charities and foundations of all sizes are headquartered in our communities from Aspen to Parachute.

3) Third, really get to know the charity of your choice. It’s easier to monitor local organizations and how your dollars are being spent, plus you can pick up the phone or drop in on the nonprofit you are supporting. If you receive an annual report or newsletter in response to your donation, ask for these materials. Study the website, and by all means, volunteer to―well―be a volunteer! Many nonprofits truly need capable, trusted and responsible volunteers who, especially, can be relied on to show up on a regular basis. Thus, volunteer labor often is as appreciated as is the next financial donation, and could be the greatest gift of all.

Use these three simple tips when considering where to give this season. Individual and business contributions are critical to our charitable network and to helping those less fortunate in our community. Give something back this season, and be rewarded knowing you have made a difference!

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The author, Scott Grosscup, is a partner at the law firm of Balcomb & Green in Glenwood Springs. His specialties include water law, real estate, local government and water resources. He is vice president of the board of United Way Battlement to Bells.