There’s never a bad time to give to charity. However, certain times of the year are better than others, and now is one of the best.
Many charities need your help this time of year, so your gift can really make a difference. Depending on your situation, your charitable donations might qualify for a tax deduction. Furthermore, studies show that charitable giving can be good for your health.
Here are five reasons to give now:
1. Giving can be good for you—in the fall, winter, all year long.
Study after study shows that giving can be good for your emotional and physical well-being. Researchers at Harvard and the University of British Columbia found that people are happier when they give money to others instead of spending it on themselves. In addition, a Carnegie Mellon study1 found that older adults who volunteer decreased their risk of high blood pressure by 40%.
2. Small, meaningful gifts can make the holidays brighter.
Don’t underestimate the impact of your gift. In the United States, individual giving accounts for 70% of gifts to charity, according to Giving USA.2 Gifts of all sizes add up. Think of fundraising walks, school dance marathons and other events that raise significant amounts because so many participate. Plus, charitable organizations nationwide are experts at stretching your charitable dollars. For example, with each $1 donation, Feeding America3 can secure and distribute 10 meals to people facing hunger.
3. You can help spread the warmth.
Winter can be chilling for charities and those in need. Colder months mean increased demand for warmer clothing. Shelters fill up as people who live on the streets seek relief from freezing, potentially deadly temperatures.
Less fortunate individuals and families often must choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table. Undernourished children and adults are more likely to need—and forgo—medical care. Longer, darker days and holiday stresses can take their toll on mental health.
4. ’Tis the season to talk to kids about giving.
What better place to talk about giving than around the Thanksgiving table? This year, in addition to telling friends and family what you’re thankful for, try sharing why and how you give to others. Then, encourage family and friends to chime in.
Ask younger children to come up with ways that they can give: What could they do to make a friend or classmate feel better? Could they help a brother, sister, parent, grandparent or neighbor? With teens and young adults, ask more age-appropriate questions: If they could change one thing in the world, what might it be? Is there anything they can do now to help make that happen?
Chances are you’ll learn things about one another that you didn’t know before. You’ll help your children understand why charitable giving is a family value. You’ll also help ensure that your family philanthropy continues with the next generation.
5. The right timing may help you save on taxes.
The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed the way many people look at itemizing deductions, including charitable deductions. The new law nearly doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly,4 making it hard for some filers to reach the itemization threshold. As a result, more people are expected to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing. If you don’t itemize, you can’t deduct your charitable contributions.
That’s where “bunching” comes in. With this approach, you “bunch” multiple years of donations into a single year. This larger donation, combined with other deductions, may help you exceed the standard deduction to qualify for itemization. During non-bunching years, you would likely take the standard deduction.
What does that mean for charities that rely on you for gifts year after year? You can provide that continuity through a donor-advised fund (DAF) like the Giving Fund from TIAA Charitable.
A DAF is like a personal fund for your giving. It lets you time your donations to charity so they make the most sense for you and the causes you care about.
In the years that you’re bunching, you make your charitable contribution into the DAF. Because a DAF is offered through a public charity, the contribution is generally fully deductible in the year you contribute. You may even be able to minimize capital gains taxes by contributing appreciated securities. Money in the DAF is invested and has the potential to grow, tax free, so there’s more to give. You can then use your DAF to give to your favorite causes as you customarily do.
This flexibility is one of many reasons donor-advised funds are a smart, increasingly popular component of many donors’ financial strategies. In fact, Giving USA5 reports that DAFs are one of the fastest growing charitable giving vehicles.
Get a head start with these simple tips.
- Keep giving top of mind throughout the season and incorporate giving activities into routine tasks. At the grocery store, pick up some nonperishable food items for the local food pantry. Shopping for gifts? Add something for a toy drive, or buy warm clothing to drop off at a nearby shelter.
- Make a giving calendar to encourage family members to engage in simple acts of charity. Fill in the dates with different ideas: run an errand for someone; shovel a neighbor’s walk; make someone smile.
- Donate to a charity that resonates with you. Use our charity search engine to find your favorite charities, look for new ones, or search by cause.
Whatever you decide, act soon.
There are financial reasons to act now, too. The deadline is fast approaching to donate in time for the 2018 tax year. Interested in opening a DAF? Consider a Giving Fund from TIAA Charitable and discover why a DAF is one of the smartest ways to give—any time of year.