Read these 23 Donations Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Charity tips and hundreds of other topics.
Worldwide, cell phones are becoming ubiquitous. And, with falling prices and changing standards, they are also becoming throw-away items. In fact, in the United States, handsets are cast off, on average, after 18 months.
Unfortunately, for all their convenience and increasing affordability, cell phones are difficult to dispose of safely. Because they contain toxics-rich semiconductor chips, LCD displays and batteries, and because their casings tend to be composed of hard-to-recycle plastics, cell phones are filling up landfills and leeching potentially toxic chemicals into surrounding soil and groundwater. Luckily, the challenge to recycle cell phones had created another opportunity to give to charities. As with vehicles, there are many organizations, such as The Charitable Recycling Program (www.charitablerecycling.com), that will accept your own cell phone and recycle it for you, then use or distribute the proceeds of that recycling to charities.
There are organizations to which you can donate cell phones, where they will be used to help fulfill the organization's mission. In some cases, your cell phone might be given to a domestic abuse victim so that she has a way to call for help. Communication is a very important aspect of community development and crime prevention; donated cell phones are also often put to use in areas that need crime prevention, and can even play a role in apprehending criminals, as when they are used to spread an Amber Alert.
The Wireless Foundation (www.wirelessfoundation.org) accepts phones for these purposes, and you can also talk to local shelters to see if they would accept your cell phone, its batteries and accessories. Finally, your wireless service provider might run its own program or work with existing programs, and will surely fill you in on details!
*Cash donations to eligible nonprofit organizations are generally deductible up to their full value.
Depending on the recipient, the deduction a donor may take on his taxes may be limited to 30% or 50% of his Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and may be carried forward for five years.
If you have a computer that is less then five years old, chances are that it can be put to good use by someone else. However, donating a computer is not as simple as just delivering your old PC or laptop to a local school or nonprofit. In fact, out-of-date computer systems can be more of a burden than a blessing to schools and nonprofits, as it can cost them up to $400 to bring a pre-Pentium computer up to today's standards.
Donate your equipment, instead, to a nonprofit or school-based refurbisher, (particularly if you need to wipe your hard drive or are not sure of the condition of your equipment). Refurbishers ensure that equipment passed on to nonprofits and schools is operational and that it runs legal copies of software. They can also properly dispose of non-usable parts. Note that refurbishers work with newer equipment, so if your computer is more than five years old, a professional recycler will be a better choice than a refurbisher.
When you think of donating, the most common things that probably come to mind are donating things you "own": your money, your old clothes, books … things like that. You can also donate your time, which is something else that you don't necessarily own but that you have and that is separate from your physical self. What about things that are or have been a more connected part of you? These, too, can make a world of difference to people in need - particularly people suffering from long-term or terminal illnesses.
Donating blood helps people every day, and can be particularly important during times of emergency. Bone marrow donations can significantly help cancer patients and others suffering from chronic and terminal diseases. Though it means facing your own mortality, designating yourself as an organ donor is another way to help people that would persist, should anything terrible ever happen to you. Most simply and painlessly (physically, at least), you can donate your hair for use in making hairpieces for children suffering long-term medical hair loss.
A professional refurbisher or a recycler should wipe your hard drive, removing all personal information. However, you might feel more comfortable removing your personal information yourself, or you might have to, if you are making a direct donation.
It's best to use some disk cleaning software to delete your Internet browser's cache, cookies, history, your e-mail contacts and messages, your documents, your recycle or trash folder, and non-transferable software. Use a disk cleaning utility that overwrites data so that it is unrecoverable.
A donor advised fund (DAF) is a charitable giving vehicle in which an individual or family makes a permanent contribution of personal assets to a public charity. Donors then advise the charity on how to use those funds.
Donor Advised Funds provide an immediate tax deduction and maximum tax benefit, while also enabling the donor to have ongoing and flexible involvement in how the monies are used. Talk with your financial advisor and charities to which you would like to make a significant contribution about whether a Donor Advised Fund is a realistic and helpful way for you to give.
If you are donating hardware with a pre-installed Microsoft operating system, keep in mind that the license is only valid when used on the machine on which it was first installed. Since charitable organizations usually cannot afford to purchase and license new operating systems, a legal transfer - that is, keeping the machine and operating system together - will be very helpful to the receiving organization.
*Linux and Mac operating systems have different requirements, but passing on the operating system software with all donated computers remains best practice.
As with all donations, you will need appropriate documentation in order to claim a deduction on your taxes. Most school or nonprofit refurbishers can provide a tax receipt upon request. The tax laws pertaining to computer donation are covered in Section 170 of the Federal Income Tax Code, the New Millennium Classrooms Act, and the 21st Century Classrooms Act.
Business donors can deduct the un-depreciated value of the computer, and individuals can deduct the current market value of a computer. To determine the fair market value of a computer, refer to www.computereconomics.com. The refurbisher with whom you work should also be able to give you a fair estimate on your receipt.
Since you're donating an old computer, it's probably a safe bet that you have a new one … and that you'll want to upgrade that in a few years.
Create a box or file in which you can store the documents that came with your new computer. That way, everything will be in one place when it comes time to donate the latest computer.
As with many things, a little research up front may save you a huge headache later. Call the refurbisher or recycling organization that you are considering, or check for details on its web site.
If you call an organization ahead of time, you can ensure that it accepts the type of computer you plan to give away, and then find out to what causes (if any) they donate the refurbished machine or recycled components.
Any equipment that is not working or that is below Pentium- or Mac Power PC-level should be recycled, rather than refurbished. Recyclers remove useful parts of such machines and then break down the rest of the materials. They also safely remove hazardous materials.
Some recyclers may charge a fee to accept old PCs and equipment, especially monitors, for recycling. You may, however, be able to find some computer recyclers that operate like vehicle recyclers - that is, they sell the usable parts, keep a fee for themselves, and donate the rest to charity.
More than 88,000 people are waiting for the gift of life; each day, about 74 people receive an organ transplant. However, 17 people die each day waiting for transplants that can't take place because of the shortage of donated organs. You and your family can help: discuss the potential of becoming an organ donor. In the case that tragedy should strike, your or your loved ones' organs could be the salvation for another in need. While it may be unpleasant to think about, organ donation is a lasting way to make a difference and to truly give the gift of life.
Once you decide to become an organ donor, be sure to make your wishes known about organ and tissue donation to your family so that your will can be done. It is also important to note that living donation is also a possibility. According to a recent national survey by the National Kidney Foundation, one in four Americans say they would consider donating a kidney to a stranger. Kidneys are the most common organ donated by living donors. Other organs that can be donated by living donors include parts of the liver, lungs and pancreas.
*There are many benefits to living donation, but there are also risks to the donor. Visit www.organdonor.gov, a site set up by the US Department of Health and Human Services, for more information on both traditional and living organ donation.
As more companies, organizations, and individuals find reasons to upgrade their computer equipment, the responsibly to dispose of old equipment grows.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 250 million computers will become obsolete in the next five years. As of 2001, only 11 percent of personal computers retired in the U.S. were recycled. Not only is this filling landfills with non-biodegradable plastics, metals and toxins, such waste is a missed opportunity to provide technology and tools to people across the digital divide.
Supporting Organizations operate like private foundations, but with the tax benefits of public charities. A Supporting Organization offers individuals and their families the opportunity to have a unique charitable identity, as well as involvement in the investment and distribution of charitable funds.
For more information on establishing a Supporting Organization, talk with your financial advisor. Also, you can visit the National Philanthropic Trust (www.nptrust.org) for more information.
You may donate virtually anything (from clothes to books to vehicles to furniture) and receive a tax donation up to the fair market value of the item, if the item will be used to advance the mission of the receiving organization. If the asset is not related to the charity's mission, the deduction is limited to the amount for which the charity is able to sell the item.
*For more information on donating vehicles, which had specific rules governing deductibility laid out by the IRS in 2005, please see http://cardonation.lifetips.com.
Under US tax law, it is possible to set up charitable trusts that can provide you with a way to give to charity while also procuring significant tax benefits for yourself and your heirs. Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs) and Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs) but do not qualify as exempt under IRS 501(c)(3), but do offer significant tax benefits.
Charitable Remainder Trusts pass the remainder of the assets held in trust to a designated charity upon the death of the grantor or one or more beneficiaries. Holders of such trusts can take a tax deduction for the portion of the trust's assets that is expected to be paid to a charity in the future. The Charitable Lead Trust is essentially the reverse of a Charitable Remainder Trust: payments are made from the trust to a designated charity throughout the grantor's lifetime, and the remainder of those assets returns to the donor's estate or other beneficiaries upon the grantor's death.
Nonprofit organizations sometimes run capital or endowment campaigns that focus on larger donations. Nevertheless, larger donations do not have to be reserved for such campaigns or glamorous improvements. A large gift that an organization can use just to cover salaries or janitorial services will take a huge burden off a nonprofit's balance sheet anytime.
If you can afford only a small gift, don't feel that you cannot contribute to a capital campaign. Charities value every gift they get, and they will welcome the opportunity to build a longer-term relationship with you. In many cases, you can even donate online, whether it be cash in small amounts, or large.
A safe and secure blood supply is critical to public health. According to the American Red Cross, someone in America needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. Cancer patients, accident victims, premature infants, and people with chronic diseases are some common recipients of donated blood.
Regular donations of blood are essential to ensure that all needs are met, all of the time. Because whole blood has a shelf life of only 42 days, it is important to be a regular and frequent donor. Giving blood doesn't take much time, and each donation has the power to save as many as three lives. Visit www.givelife.org to make an appointment to donate blood today.
Remember that organizations that will be receiving your donated computer might not be as well-versed in the operating system as you have been. Therefore, it will be very helpful to them to provide the original disks and documentation that came with the PC when it was purchased.
*Include the proof of license, which will help facilitate the legal transfer of the operating system.
Locks of Love is a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to disadvantaged children who suffer long-term medical hair loss, including hair loss that results from alopecia areata and cancer treatments. The hairpieces help restore the children's self-esteem and confidence, helping them face the world and their peers.
Locks of Love accepts donations of clean, dry, natural hair that is at least 10 inches long and that is bound in a ponytail or braid. The hair you donate may be colored or permed, but Locks can unfortunately not accept hair that has been bleached or chemically damaged.
*For more information about Locks of Love, how to donate hair, or making a financial contribution, visit www.locksoflove.org.
If you can, include the keyboard, mouse, printer, modem, packaged software, or any other accessories that came with the computer you plan to donate. Schools and charitable organizations can almost always put them to good use, and most organizations only accept complete systems.
*If you cannot supply these accessories and cannot find an organization willing to accept and incomplete package directly, talk with a refurbisher to see if he can help.
Typically understaffed and overworked, nonprofit organizations often survive on a backbone of volunteers. Donating your time and skills to an organization provides much-needed labor to nonprofit organizations and gives you an opportunity to see the organization first-hand and become involved on the ground level.
You can deduct expenses related to volunteering, such as mileage, fares, tolls, et cetera, but you are not able to deduct the value of your donated time.
Gifts of appreciated securities are generally fully deductible at their market value, though the deduction a door may take is limited to 20% or 30% of his Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), and may be carried forward for five years.
Appreciated assets donated to charity are not subject to capital gains tax. Therefore, a gift of securities of gifts of stock to charity will save a donor capital gains tax, provide a tax deduction for the donor, and will provide the recipient with the market value of the appreciated assets.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|