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Janice France-Pettit: A guide on how to be philanthropic in 2010

Union Bank

Posted: January 15, 2010 9:49 p.m.
Updated: January 16, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
Many of our customers contemplate charitable giving at the end of the tax year. The beginning of a new year also provides an opportunity to reevaluate your charitable giving objectives and develop a plan of action for the coming months.
Here are a few ideas to consider when you are ready to donate in 2010.

Identify your goals
Defining and focusing your giving goals may be the first step toward more organized giving. Identify the issues and causes that matter to you and your family. If a loved one or friend has had a health-care concern, you may wish to contribute to groups that seek cures or solutions to such problems.

The same applies for social concerns. Or perhaps you may wish to keep your donations local and focus on charities that help in your community.  

Research the charity
Before you make a donation on behalf of yourself or your family, thoroughly examine the charity. Try to align with a nonprofit organization that will maximize your contribution by putting your funds to good use.

Ideally, the charity you select will use three-fourths of your donation to provide aid or programs for those in need. You can also request data from the organizations showing the amount of people, animals, buildings, etc. your funds will assist throughout the year.

Additionally, you may request an annual report. Being able to analyze the numbers will allow you to determine if the nonprofit organization is truly fulfilling your donation goals.

Several independent organizations rate charities, and may be a good place to look; however, be sure to do your own research as well.

Some Web sites that may be beneficial to you in investigating charities are The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (give.org), CharityNavigator.org or The American Institute of Philanthropy (charitywatch.com).

Determine giving
Only you can determine the amount of money that you wish to donate or can afford in 2010. If you are concerned about your future and cash donations seem difficult, there are other options you might consider such as giving real estate, stocks and/or bonds.

Your stock must be worth more than you paid for it and you must have held it for more than a year. You may also want to specify certain donation amounts be set aside for your selected nonprofit groups as part of your will or living trust.

You should consult with a tax advisor or financial professional to ensure you make your gift in the most tax-efficient manner.

Consider volunteering
While cash contributions are common, volunteering your time and expertise may be just as beneficial. Create a list of nonprofit organizations that meet your personal interests and contact them to determine their volunteer needs and commitment requirements.

Many groups have Web sites where organizations post their volunteer needs. In addition to volunteers who work on the “front lines,” charities may appreciate a donation of your business expertise or creativity.

Know tax implications
As you may know, cash donations receive an immediate tax deduction. If you donate stocks that have increased in value (and you’ve held them for more than a year) you can deduct the current fair-market value in the year you make the contribution.

There are restrictions on how much you can donate in any one given year for both cash and securities, so be sure to review the specifics if you are planning a large donation.

Whether you give your time or your money during 2010, your contributions will help. Plan your charitable donations for 2010 now, and your thoughtfulness will make an impact this coming year.

The foregoing article is intended to provide general information about creating a trust and is not considered legal, financial or tax advice from Union Bank. Trusts, wills, foundations and wealth planning strategies have legal, tax accounting and other implications. Please consult a legal or tax adviser. Janice France-Pettit is a senior vice president and regional manager for Union Bank, overseeing the Simi Valley, San Fernando Valley and Antelope Valley regions. Her column reflects her own opinion and not necessarily that of The Signal.

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