Charitable giving increases as year winds down

Adela Crandall Durkee for Chronicle Media

Feed My Starving Children food-packing events are common in the McHenry Country area. (Photo used with permission from the website of a food packing event in the Chicago area)

December is the last month of the year to give tax-deductible donations. It’s also the month when many people step up their charitable giving. Besides the holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, several other holidays of giving are celebrated during December.

Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Yule, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Idal-Fitr all fall near the shortest day of the year and most have light and generosity incorporated into the celebrations. The holidays stimulate people to become more introspective, count their blessings, and decide to help those less fortunate.

McHenry Community College, along with corporate sponsors, provides a network of charitable

A creative giving idea, Resurrection Book Club donates more than 50 books to McHenry Diaper Bank for distribution to children, the elderly, and handicapped.

organizations through People in Need Directory. More than 80 organizations offer services for the mind, body, and spirit. Organizations offer pet rescue, animal therapy, and help with finances, housing, childcare and a variety of crisis situations.

Whether it’s a one-time donation of goods, deeds, or dollars, or a New Year’s resolution to volunteer, the People in Need Directory can help unite individual generosity to a local charity.

Here are a few tips for deciding how to give wisely.

  • Follow your passions: Roughly 1 million charities exist in this country. Don’t settle for an organization that isn’t a match for your beliefs and goals. There are charities that rescue pets, and charities that use pets to rescue people, there are music charities, literacy charities, charities for children, charities for athletes, charities for mothers of twins, and charities for senior citizens.
  • Ensure the charity is efficient, ethical and effective: Before you give to any charity this holiday season, be sure to check that the charity meets these three criteria: Financially solid, transparent and accountable with funds, and accomplishes goals that matches your intent.
  • Watch out for copy-cats. Sometimes disreputable charities use names similar to dependable and sound charities. Make sure you get the charity’s exact name, and then check them out.
  • Resist pressure. Don’t fall for telemarketers’ pressure or heart-wrenching appeals.
  • Follow your investment: Once you’ve made a commitment, avoid putting your giving on autopilot. Continue to review the charity’s commitment and responsibility to assure it meets your requirements.
  • Get creative. Consider how you might share your passion with an existing charity. For example, let’s say your passion is reading. You might want to share books with a local shelter or warming center.

Charity Navigator ( rates charitable organizations on a 100-point scale. More than 40 organizations, ranging from environmental rescue to health and human services, have perfect scores. Their criteria include:

  • Tax Status: The organization must be registered as a 501(c) (3) public charity and file a Form 990.
  • Revenue: The charity must have generated at least $1 million in revenue for two consecutive years.
  • Length of Operations: The organization must have been in existence for at least seven years.
  • Public Support: The charity must have at least $500,000 in public support. Public support must account for at least 40 percent of total revenue for at least two consecutive years.
  • Fundraising Expenses: The charity must have at least 1 percent of its expenses allocated to fundraising for three consecutive years.
  • Administrative Expenses: The charity must have at least 1 percent of its expenses allocated to administrative expense for three consecutive years.

Tax deductible gifts reduce the cost of giving. Someone in the lowest tax bracket (15 percent) can deduct $15 for each gift worth $100; the actual cost of the donation is reduced by the tax savings. For a person in the highest bracket, 35 percent, the actual cost is only $65. Not only can the wealthy afford to give more, but they receive a larger reward for giving.

To download the People in Need Directory or find out more about the Forum Jan. 28, visit the website at: