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Published: Friday, December 21, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
Local charities are seeing record years for donations despite tax changes that many feared would cause fewer to give.
Area donations typically increase around the holidays as the year nears a close and Ohioans find themselves in a giving spirit. But area charities have seen big donations all year, and some area charities are poised to reach records for 2018.
“Last year we had a record year and we’re tracking above that this year,” said Michelle Lovely, vice president of development for the Dayton Foundation.
The foundation helps donors create charitable checking accounts and set up other options for giving, such as through grants and endowments. About 17 percent more funds were opened this year than last, and the number of grants going out of the foundation increased 3.1 percent so far this year.
Some experts have shown concern about the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which nearly doubled the standard deduction from $6,350 to $12,000 for individuals. To receive a tax break, donors must itemize their deduction, which can only be done if combined deductions exceed the standard.
Yet YWCA Dayton has received nearly double the number of in-kind donations this year compared to 2017, said spokeswoman Audrey Starr.
Habitat for Humanity in Dayton has had an increase in donors this year, reaching the highest number in recent memory said spokeswoman Kim Schaaf.
“Charitable giving sort of parallels with the stock market and we’ve been on a good 10-year run. The stock market has been going up and so charitable giving has been going up,” said Dayton Foundation chief development officer Joe Baldasare.
While the stock market has dropped in recent weeks, the economy is still relatively healthy, with low unemployment and higher take-home wages.
“We certainly see an uptick this time of year , both because people are just in that generous giving season , but they’re also doing a lot of purging and cleaning out and looking for places that will take those gently used items that they’re no longer using ,” Starr said.
Goodwill in Dayton saw a slight increase this year in philanthropic donations to programs, in-kind donations and foot traffic at the stores, where 86 cents of every $1 in revenue goes to the organization’s 40 programs, said donations manager Cindy Carusone.
St. Vincent de Paul, which operates shelters, food banks and thrift stores, doesn’t track its in-kind donations by number, but director of mission advancement Helen Fahey suspects the organization has received more donations this year; the number of guests at shelters is up around 30 percent over a year ago, she said.
“I would say December is always our best month for donations just because it’s the holiday season, it’s the end of the year, people are making their end of the year tax contributions, people are making gifts in memoriam and in honor of,” Schaaf said.
While local charities said donations around the holidays are beneficial, the organizations also need help year round. Cash donations are also preferable because they provide more flexibility, Schaaf said.
“W ith the money , then you can do whatever you need . Whereas , you know, if we get a ton of lumber donated , but we’re not building enough to keep up with the lumber , then we have to store the lumber,” Schaaf said.
Beware of scams
With an increase in giving this time of year, more scammers come out of the woodwork to take advantage of donors. The most important thing is not to rush a donation, Lovely said.
“A lot of times when there’s a scam, people use a high pressure, really trying to get someone to donate immediately,” she said. “Just step back to get information about the charity so that you can do your research.”
After getting information, potential donors can get names, tax ID numbers, addresses and other information about the charity that can be searched on Charity Watch, Charity Navigator or Guidestar, which can verify that a charity is legitimate and trustworthy.
Also avoid using cash or money wires because scammers will push for those payment methods where donors can’t get the money back, Lovely said.
FIVE FAST READS
How to make the most of holiday donations
1. Give items the organizations need most
Money is one of the best gifts to a charity to be used to buy various needs. The YWCA also needs shoes, Goodwill needs automobiles.
Consumers can bunch or bundle their charitable donations, giving in one year what they might over three years.
Giving the sum in one year would give donors a tax break through itemizing one year while taking the standard deduction the other two years. Otherwise, those givers would be forced to take the standard deduction every year.
3. Donate now, but pick where it goes later
Donors trying to donate extra money for tax purposes before the year ends but don’t have time to research organizations during the busy holidays can put money into a charitable checking account or donor advised fund through community foundations like the Dayton Foundation.
Doing so gives the deduction this year, but donors can decide what charities to spend the money on in 2019.
4. Use charitable donations to offset capital gains
Instead of writing a check to a charity, consider donating the most highly appreciated security that’s been held for over a year. The capital gains taxes typically won’t apply to the donor or the charity receiving the donation. It will also save the cash that would have been given in a check for rebalancing the donor’s portfolio.