Ideally, charity should be practiced year round not just at the end of the year in preparation for a tax refund. But whenever you give, it is wise to make the most of the funds you have as a good steward, and there are ways to maximize your giving that allow you to give more to charity and less to the IRS. After all, even Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21 NLT).
One way to do that is through a donor-advised fund set up through the National Christian Foundation. Focused on serving high-capacity and middle-income givers, they help you leverage tax-advantage tools that funnel more resources into your charities of choice while maximizing tax benefits. If you write checks to a local church or ministry, but have appreciated stocks or mutual funds in a taxable investment portfolio, you likely have a significant opportunity to pay less tax, give more, improve your personal cash flow and simplify giving through this type of fund. By using tax savings to give more, you also increase your charitable deduction.
If you are not sure where you want to give, a donor-advised fund also allows you to set aside the resources now and receive a tax deduction this year while granting the money over time as you feel led. It also enables you to give non-liquid assets such as property and stocks or a share of your business to set up your giving fund without hurting your cash flow.
Choosing where to give
Whether you give cash or set up a giving fund, determining where to give can be a daunting task as there are literally people with their hands out at the corner and appeals for funding flooding the mail. As much as we may like to, we can’t give to every cause; however, there are certain causes, as outlined in Matthew 25 above, that Jesus spoke of specifically.
And while we can’t test the motives of every person or organization looking for a handout, it is important to research the charity first. Learn about the organization and whether or not it produces the results you would like to see. Find out exactly how your donation will be spent and determine if the charity has any financial accountability in place.
Many non-profit agencies now subscribe to financial overview organizations such as the Evangelical Council for financial Accountability (ECFA). Founded in 1979, ECFA provides accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™ for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising and board governance.
Charity Navigator, founded in 2001, also examines non-profit organizations to determine if they excel in financial accountability, transparency and results, helping people make informed giving decisions regarding both secular and faith-based organizations.
A meaningful holiday gift
Where and how you give can be highly personal and should be led by prayer. Rather than jumping into the commercialism of the holidays by hitting the malls on Black Friday and showering loved ones with over abundance, this year consider a few charities that provide creative ways for you to give in a loved one’s name while providing for social needs and worthwhile causes at the same time.
The Food for the Poor Gift Catalog lists items such as providing a water pump for clean drinking water, a goat to produce milk and cheese, a home with sanitation or food a child for a year. Food for the Poor feeds millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. Visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.
In the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Catalog, you can give clean water, emergency relief supplies, emergency shelter or medicine, lifesaving food, support for missionary doctors and much more. Modeled after the example of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine. Visit www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/gift-catalog-2014
Through Operation Christmas Child, an initiative of Samaritan’s Purse, you can pack a personalized shoebox of inexpensive gift items and a personal note for delivery to a needy child somewhere in the world. This is a great way to practice the value of giving with your own child. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered some 69 million gift-filled shoe boxes to boys and girls in more than 130 countries. Visit www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child.
Compassion International, a Christian child sponsorship organization provides food, shelter, education, health care, and Christian training to children in poverty. They help more than 1.4 million babies, children and students in 26 countries through a holistic program of Christ-based child development. Visit www.compassion.com to sponsor a child and send a life-changing Christmas gift.
Angel Tree, a program of Prison Fellowship, connects parents in prison with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts. Volunteers purchase and deliver gifts and the Gospel in the name of their prisoner-parent. They share Christ’s love by helping to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the families of prisoners who often feel abandoned. Visit www.prisonfellowship.org/programs/angel-tree.
Others to consider locally
It is impossible to list every charity that is doing worthwhile work. Here are a few more local organizations to consider when giving.
Cross International, based in South Florida, is a Christian relief and development organization that serves the poorest of the poor internationally by channeling aid through existing churches or church-based ministries. They provide food, shelter, water, education, medical care and emergency aid to the poor in over 36 developing countries across the globe. Visit www.crossinterational.org/takeaction.
HOPE South Florida partners with the Christian community and other agencies to serve homeless and hurting individuals and families in South Florida. Through these partnerships they are providing housing, mentoring relationships and community one-stop service centers to see broken families renewed and lives restored. Visit hopesouthflorida.org
4KIDS of South Florida is committed to providing a home for every child in crisis whether they are living on the streets, in group homes, or in foster care. Through a partnership of committed individuals, churches, corporations, and government agencies, 4KIDS has brought HOPE to over 18,000 children in 17 years. Visit www.4kidsofsfl.org.
The mission of Sheridan House Family Ministries is to honor Christ by serving the needs of children and families in South Florida. They provide marriage and family seminars, a Parenting on Purpose radio show, a counseling center, single parent ministry and residential care for boys and girls with behavioral and emotional issues. Visit www.sheridanhouse.org.
Photo credits: Food for the Poor
For more articles by Shelly Pond, please visit goodnewsfl.org/author/shelly/