According to the Almanac of American Philanthropy, the United States is one of the most charitable nations in the world, donating more than $350 billion in 2015. Many Americans take pride in giving back to society and assisting those less fortunate.

Whether it’s a small gift or large endowment, contributing to charity requires planning. By understanding how planned giving works, people can more effectively donate to charitable causes. Below are some tips for those interested in supporting philanthropy:

  • Plan carefully: While donating to charity is important, evaluating your personal finances should factor into your decision to give. Once you’ve decided your donation amount, research philanthropic organizations to ensure a charity is both trustworthy and aligns with your values. In addition, you should follow the organization’s protocols when providing contributions, such as mailing in a check at the proper time or donating online, to receive tax benefits.
  • Small gift options: While many people send donations via cash or check, there are a variety of options available that can help you save money or donate more. Donating appreciated securities or real estate owned more than one year can help you take advantage of applicable tax incentives. For example, donating appreciated securities, like stocks or bonds, instead of selling them can help avoid capital gains taxes.
  • Large gift options: If you’re interested in making a larger donation, you may be interested in charitable lead annuity trusts, charitable remainder trusts, donor advised investment accounts, or pooled income funds. Choosing between these options depends on factors such as your financial situation, risk tolerance, and age.
  • Understand your objectives: What kind of impact do you want to make? Are you looking to support a worthy cause or would you like more control over your donations? If you’re looking for more control, consider contributing to an existing capital campaign that will help fund a predetermined goal, or donate a large endowment, which will create new resources for a long term project.

The impact of planned giving on those in need can be substantial. By understanding your options and consulting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, you can better understand your options and maximize your contribution’s benefit to society.