If your mailbox seems especially full these
days with requests for donations to the local homeless shelter, environmental
causes and food banks, you're not dreaming. Many charities flood the mail with
their year-end holiday pitches for your charity dollars.
If you're like most Americans, you'll probably pull out your checkbook
and send along some money. Every year, nearly 90 percent of households contribute
to at least one of more than a million charitable organizations in the country,
whether it's a church, school or nonprofit organization. The average annual household
contributions totals $1,610.
If you're going to
give up some of your cash to charities, you'd probably like to be assured that
your donation makes a difference. Whether you give $10 or $10,000, there are ways
to increase the impact of your gift -- and you don't have to spend a penny to
||Ways to increase the impact of your gift:
your donation with a matching gift
Many large companies -- and
increasingly, smaller businesses -- will match your donation. "Employees give
a certain amount of money, and the company matches it, dollar for dollar," says
Gregory D'Angelo, vice president and charitable trust officer of the Univest Foundation
in Souderton, Pa. So the $50 donation you send to your alma mater could potentially
become a $100 donation at no extra cost to you.
will match at a 2-to-1 or even 3-to-1 ratio, though they might set annual contribution
limits. Check with your human resources department to find out what is available.
for your cause.
If you're someone who likes to buy online, Web
sites, such as iGive.com, DonationTree.com, BuyforCharity.com and GreaterGood.com,
can help you increase your giving. These Web sites partner with merchants who
agree to send a percentage of the price of the product -- from less than 1 percent
to more than 25 percent -- to a cause you select.
founder and CEO of Evanston, Ill.-based iGive.com, says that this incremental
giving can have a big impact: Average online shoppers can expect $20 to $40 to
go to their favorite charity each year, just for buying the things that they would
buy anyway. Heavy online shoppers might end up giving hundreds of dollars a year.
This year alone, Grosshandler expects iGive members to be responsible for some
$500,000 in charitable giving.
"It's a true win-win-win,"
says Grosshandler. "Nonprofits get much-needed additional funding at no cost to
them. People get to help organizations they care about, no matter what the size
of the organization. And stores get to help their customers support the cause
the customer cares about."