4 Tips for Making the Most of Your Holiday Charitable Donations

‘Tis the season for charities to flood email inboxes with sad stories and heartfelt pleas in an attempt to get kind-hearted people everywhere to donate a little something during the holidays. Most people say they donate to make a difference in the world, but a little something extra in return would be good for you too, wouldn’t it? All good deeds don’t go unnoticed – especially if you know how to make your charitable acts work for you.

Check out these four suggestions to find out how to make your acts of good will pay off during the 2012 holiday season.

1.    Get Cash Back for Your Generosity. If you’re going to make charitable donations this year, milk the banks for a kickback every chance you get. All of those holiday donations add up, and that could mean a little extra cash back in your wallet for a few “me” gifts. Some cards are better than others when it comes to rewards, so familiarize yourself with your various rewards programs before you decide which card to use for major donations.

2.    Get Paid for Your Free Time. Do you want to feel extra warm and fuzzy this holiday season? When you add volunteering to your holiday routine, you can get tax deductions on things like gas, trips to Kinko’s and the dozen of donuts you bought to surprise the soup kitchen crew. Plus, volunteers receive deductions for lodging. So if you’re heading out of town, give some of your time to a nonprofit. It’ll make your holiday merrier (and cheaper).

3.    Keep Your Receipts in Check. Don’t let your charitable donations land you in hot water when tax time rolls around. When it comes time to file your taxes, you want to make sure that you have all of your paperwork in line – just in case you’re one of the lucky few who gets audited. General rule of thumb says the bigger the donation, the better your documentation needs to be.

4.    Write to Your Legislators. As the fiscal cliff approaches, nonprofit organizations have voiced concerns about losing donations this year thanks to changes in tax rules. Many nonprofits fear that deductions for charitable donations will be capped – or worse, totally cut. If you’re part of 68% of Americans who support tax breaks for doing charitable work, send your congressperson an urgent message and politely demand your deduction.

Of course, given how quickly time seems to pass between the holidays and tax-filing season, you’d better get to spreading good cheer sooner rather than later if you want to take full advantage of deductions. Remember to keep your receipt anytime you give a gift to a nonprofit, whether it’s your church or your favorite independent radio station. When you’re giving gifts this year, remember the karmic rule – “What goes around comes around.” Your good intentions could end up paying for next year’s presents if you track all of your charitable donations.