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Where should you donate in 2020?

Use our end-of-year giving guide for #GivingTuesday and beyond.

The holiday season prompts many of us to think about giving — to family, to friends and to the charities and organizations that depend on our end-of-year contributions. But finding the right organization to support is often harder than people realize. While a lot of us have our go-to charitable giving sources, researching and adding a new qualified charity or nonprofit organization to the list can be time-consuming, and the work of vetting various causes might provide enough of a barrier to prevent you from giving altogether.

That’s where we can help. This year, there is a particular need to support organizations working to help people affected by COVID-19, as well as organizations dedicated to supporting communities affected by hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters. You may also want to make a contribution to a group working to promote social justice or close the racial wealth gap. And while altruism is its own reward, you should also know that this year, the CARES Act allows you to deduct up to $300 in charitable contributions as an above-the-line deduction — even if you don’t itemize deductions. (Translation: You can knock some dollars off your tax bill.)

Here are some suggestions to help you guide your charitable giving, whether you plan to make a one-time donation on Giving Tuesday — the annual day when many organizations might offer matching donations — or provide the long-term support that comes with a recurring contribution.

In this article:

COVID-19 relief funds

Earlier this year, Haven Life created a list of COVID-19 relief funds that need your support — and organizations like Feeding America and the American Red Cross are still doing the important work of providing food, emergency shelter and other key resources to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Charity Navigator also has a recommended list of non-profits providing relief and assistance to communities affected by COVID. This online platform is a great tool if you’re looking to make a charitable contribution to a specific COVID nonprofit organization. Charity Navigator is the largest charity evaluator in the country, and an invaluable resource for people who want to make high-impact donations or plan an effective annual giving strategy. Charity Navigator’s list of top COVID-19 relief organizations includes Doctors Without Borders, Matthew 25: Ministries and the CDC Foundation.

You may also want to think locally. Supporting small businesses that might have lost sales due to the coronavirus pandemic is one of the best things you can do with your Black Friday dollars, and your area may also have food banks and other local relief organizations that could benefit from a few extra end-of-year contributions. Donating cans of food, old clothes, etc., is always an option — but giving money is often the better choice, since organizations like food banks can use your dollars to buy food and other resources at below-retail prices.

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Natural disaster support

In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 has seen a number of unexpected and unprecedented natural disasters. This year, wildfires blanketed the West Coast while a derecho ripped through part of the Midwest — and we had the most active hurricane season on record.

These wildfires, hurricanes and inland windstorms were all record-breaking in their own ways — which means that those of us who can afford to give might want to consider surpassing our previous donation records. A one-time charitable contribution to the American Red Cross can help support both COVID-19 relief and natural disaster relief, and a recurring monthly donation will help the Red Cross provide assistance in current and future crises.

Charity Navigator lists the Center for Disaster Philanthropy as one of its Top 10 Charities Expanding in a Hurry, giving you good reason to add the CDP to your end-of-year donation list. If you’re not familiar with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, its goal is to create a world in which the impact of disasters is minimized by thoughtful, equitable and responsible recovery for all — and the CDP does this work by supporting medium- and long-term disaster recovery strategies that help people restore not only their property and/or their livelihoods, but also their mental health and well-being.

Racial equity and social justice

Many people took to the streets this year to protest police brutality and support the Black Lives Matter movement — and if you are looking for ways to put your money towards racial equity and social justice, you can consider everything from impact investing for racial justice to supporting Black-owned businesses.

You might also want to consider supporting a Black-founded legitimate charity or non-profit. Charity Navigator has an extensive list of highly-rated non-profits supporting the Black community, from criminal justice reform organizations like the Equal Justice Initiative to performing arts companies like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. If you are interested in supporting social justice through civil liberty, you might want to make an end-of-year gift to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which for decades has helped advance the cause of racial justice through the courts, including helping defend the right to vote.

How to create your own charitable giving strategy

If you’d like to create a charitable giving strategy that extends beyond Giving Tuesday and the holiday giving season, we’ve got a charitable giving guide to help you identify reputable organizations, decide where to put your money and take advantage of tax-advantaged investing with a donor-advised fund.

That said, creating a long-term charitable giving strategy can be much simpler than that. All you need to do is pick one or two organizations doing work that reflects your values, use your household budget to determine how much money you can afford to give and set up a monthly recurring donation.

Why monthly? Because although charities benefit from — and, in some cases, depend upon — events like Giving Tuesday and one-time holiday cash donations, the truth is that organizations need steady monthly support just as much as they need annual gifts. If you can afford to give once a year, that’s great. If you can afford to give once a month, you’ll be giving the organizations you support an even greater gift by contributing to their monthly income.

Are charitable donations tax deductible?

In most cases, charitable donations are tax deductible — but that doesn’t mean you should count on taking a significant tax deduction based on your Giving Tuesday or end-of-year donations to a legitimate charity. If you plan on taking the standard deduction on your 2020 taxes, the CARES Act allows you to deduct up to $300 of your 2020 charitable donations. If you are itemizing your deductions, you’ll be able to deduct even more of your charitable contributions — but the odds are that your donations will only make up a small percentage of your itemized tax deductions.

What does this mean for you? It means that you should plan your charitable giving strategy in a way that allows you to give what you can afford to give, without expecting a huge tax break in return. People often highlight the tax benefits associated with charitable giving as an additional reason to give, but the real reason to make charitable donations is to support causes you value, contribute to your community and help other people access what they need — food, shelter, a good lawyer, a place to quarantine while they recover from COVID-19.

So ask yourself how you’d like to help other people this holiday season with a charitable contribution — and where your money might do the most good.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

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