Your monetary donation supports the charities in your community. Giving of your time is another way to provide support. Government studies estimate that nearly 8 billion volunteer hours support the philanthropic community.
As with cash donations, you need to do a little homework before volunteering for a charity:
• Find a charity that matches your interests.
• Evaluate the effectiveness of the charity’s programs.
• Review their finances. Is more than 75% going to their programs? Are they financially healthy?
Volunteers are valued by charities. 3 in 5 charities have a paid volunteer coordinator position. They are ready to put you to work.
Before you volunteer, you might want to do a self-assessment. Consider these questions:
• How much time can you give in a week, month or year?
• What days of the week or time of day are you available to volunteer?
• What unique talents do you possess that might help the charity?
• What tasks are you unable to do or unwilling to do?
As an accountant, I frequently have charities wanting me to volunteer accounting services. For me, that makes my time feel like a job. I avoid volunteering for accounting tasks. Yet I know other accountants that are more than happy to volunteer their accounting skills.
To make your volunteer time successful, ask yourself what you want to gain from your time spent.
• Do you want to develop a new skill that is transferable to the workplace?
• Do you want to meet new people with similar interests?
• Do you just want the gratifying feeling of helping?
While the charity may place a monetary value on your services, your volunteer time is not tax deductible. However, your mileage to and from volunteer activities is. You need to keep a record of your miles driven; you are allowed a deduction of 14₵ per mile.
A reliable volunteer with a strong work ethic can be valuable to a charity.
Mistakes to Watch Out For
While you may desire to give to charities and volunteer your time, your actions may get you on multiple mailing and calling lists.
When a charity calls, ask for materials in writing. Do not give money over the phone. By getting written materials, you can mail a check directly to the charity or go on-line and make a donation. You can cut out the middleman, fundraiser.
Also be aware, charities are allowed to call. They are not restricted by the “Do Not Call List”.
During the last quarter of the year, your mailbox may fill up with solicitations from charities. Refrain from making small donations like $25.00. Your contribution will barely cover the cost of the fundraising. A charity makes money by selling your name to other charities.
You are in a better position if you consolidate your giving to a few charities. If you are considered a large donor, charities won’t share that information. They do not want competition.