Giving TUesday

In the tradition of philanthropy, a movement began not long ago to establish the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as a day of donating to humanitarian causes—a charitable antidote to the shopping blitz of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Giving Tuesday marks a time when people are encouraged to give a little back, in keeping with the spirit of the season. The movement began in 2012 and has grown to more than 10,000 participating groups. It may pick up steam this year as more Americans join in.

Where to give

With so many charitable organizations out there, and a slew of scams ready to catch the unwary, it can be a challenge to determine where to donate. Here are a few recommendations of organizations that pledge to use your gift in the most effective and efficient way possible:

  1. GiveWell. This organization rates charities based on their ability to positively effect change while maintaining low overhead costs. The group’s top three charity recommendations are GiveDirectly, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative and Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative.
  2. Heifer International. Perhaps this year, instead of buying your mom a goose down jacket, give a family a flock of geese in her name instead. Heifer International lets people donate livestock, such as a goat, a trio of bunnies, a flock of geese or a cow to people across the world, helping families become self-sustaining by providing a means to raise food and sell goods.
  3. ReachOutandRead. This group mobilizes pediatricians across the U.S., supplying them books and pamphlets to give to parents and caregivers when they “prescribe” bedtime reading to children. Evidence shows that early exposure to reading can improve development and language skills, with lifelong benefits.
  4. PolarisProject. Using a hotline and other resources, this organization combats human trafficking in the U.S. by identifying and providing therapeutic resources to victims.
  5. HeroRATS. For $36, you could buy a year of food for a mine-sniffing super-rat in Africa. A single animal could potentially save hundreds of lives by detecting land mines and sniffing out diseases such as tuberculosis.

Making a donation directly or as a gift in another’s name can have an impact on someone else’s life as well as your own. Donations made before Dec. 31, whether by check or credit card, may be tax deductible and reduce your tax obligation for this year.

Make sure to keep a paper receipt that identifies the recipient organization, the date, and the amount donated to support your claim to a deduction, if you plan to take one. Note that donations to individuals or political organizations and candidates are not tax deductible.

If you don’t have cash to donate, or gifts to give, for that matter, consider getting a head start on next year by setting up a special savings account to create a fund.

Cait Klein, NerdWallet