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12232012-2 This year’s holiday gift buying and giving ends this week—Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas will all be behind us. However, charitable donations made by the end of the year qualify as a taxable deduction. For many people the final week of the year is an important time to make final charitable donations of the year.

‘Tis better to give than to receive, the saying goes. Giving is an integral part of the holiday season—from the sound of the Salvation Army bell ringers to charity gift wrapping at local stores and stories of need and opportunities to help in your [TargetNewspaper]. For many Americans, giving is an important piece of the holiday season, and of their life.  

A recent survey revealed that 50% of those polled plan to give to charity this season, including 47% of respondents who are unemployed. According to the survey, people reported that donating to others is one of their top three “feel good” activities—right behind being in love and hugging their children.

This week you will dig deeper into the feel good tradition of helping others. You will explore graphics and articles that reveal who helps and how they help, and you will learn more about how to make educated charitable donations.

Giving in America

Non-profits rely on donations from individuals, corporations and foundations, and grants to provide the money they need for salaries, daily expenses, and services. Which source gives the greatest proportion of funds? The National Park Services shares giving statistics for 2011. Individual giving represents what proportion of gifts? If you were planning to make a donation, which three categories of charity are you most likely to donate to? How does this align with the three types of charities that received the most donations in 2011? What strategies did charities use to garner donations? What suggestions do you have for charities to increase their audience and donations?

Why do you think people give to charities? In reality, it may not be why you think. Before you read, consider: How do you respond to phone solicitations from non-profits for money? What information do you expect to find in a mailed solicitation? What type of appeal do you find most persuasive? Psychologists who study the science of giving explore the reasons behind people’s giving. Listen to the NPR story, Why Do We Give? Not Why or How You Think. According to Chris Olivola, how is giving counter-intuitive? How does personal sacrifice or suffering affect contributions? Why do people hesitate to say no to direct appeals for money? What does this mean to non-profits hoping to raise money?

12232012-3 What does giving look like in your state and neighborhood? The Chronicle for Philanthropy examined the geography of giving. Begin by listening to the NPR story, Study Reveals the Geography of Charitable Giving. Then, visit the Chronicle for Philanthropy site to discover how America gives. View interactive maps that reveal total contributions, contributions by household, discretionary income, and percentage of income donated. Use the menu along the left side of each map to focus your search. You can zero in on a state or focus more finely and explore a particular zip code. The statistics along the right side share a giving profile of the geographic area you are examining. Learn about the factors that influence giving. What does giving look like when you factor in (or factor out) religious-based donations? What information or trends in these maps stands out for you?

One of the factors that affects giving for some individuals is taxes and the charitable donation. As the President and Congress grapple with ways to prevent the fiscal cliff, charitable organizations are paying particular attention to their negotiations and the future of the charitable deduction. Visit the Alliance for Charitable Reform and watch the video to learn why ACR is fighting to preserve this deduction. Follow it by inspecting the infographic, Charitable Giving in America. The top of the graphic shares quotes about the charitable deduction. The bottom half defends the charitable deduction and makes ACR’s case for why it should be protected. How might those hoping to end the deduction respond?

In the olden days, non-profits relied heavily on mailings and phone calls to gather donations from individuals. Social media has changed this and it has altered who gives, as the United Kingdom newspaper, The Telegraph, reports in a Rise in Giving Among 16 to 24 Year-Olds. How do charitable causes use social media? What demographic is most likely to donate through social media? For what reasons do 16 to 24 year-olds give? Do your personal experiences and observations support these findings?

Clearly, social media is changing how or where some people donate, if not how non-profits seek donations. Track year-end online giving for 2012 and compare it to 2011. Read the companion article, Online Giving Grew Rapidly. What trends are revealed?

Tips for Giving12232012-5

How do you know whether a charity is on the up-and-up? The Better Business Bureau shares these tips for prospective donors. Learn more about how the BBB reviews charities and then check out a national charity for the BBB review and ranking. CharityNavigator.com also shares a bevy of features to help potential donors assess whether to give, including: best practices in giving, 7 questions to ask, and protecting yourself from online scams. Use the charity searcher along the top to vet local charities. Enter a local charity in the search box then click on a charity’s name to view the results.

Introduce your family to these tools and help them make more educated donations this final week in the season of giving, 2012.