Giving to charity: Everybody wins!
It's not that I advocate using the act of charity to manipulate your tax burden, but you must admit that when it comes to paying taxes, if a donation of a couple hundred dollars will drop you into a lower tax bracket at filing time, a check to Habitat for Humanity suddenly becomes much more palatable.
The designation of 501(c)(3) is the code which identifies IRS registered, non-profit organizations. That's the first thing you want to look for when considering a charitable donation. There are (and should be) a host of other questions that you need to ask when donating, but where are the answers?
While investigating the Kiplinger.com web site, I discovered an absolutely excellent source of charitable organization analysis tucked in with Kiplinger's 25 Best Web Sites review. Charity Navigator.org is a website dedicated to the nuts-and-bolts financial disclosure of non-profit corporations large and small. Charity Navigator reveals how charities are handling the donations they receive and gives a broad view about how a charity is performing on the books. With a free and easy registration to the site, you can also have access to deeper analysis on specific organizations, such as a retrospective analysis of an organization's historical performance.
The experts say that when considering non-profit organizations to make donations to, you should always be careful and do your homework. Try to make sure that the organizations you choose to support serve your principles and ideals. You might find value by spending a little time at Charity Navigator to compare how charities stack up in their performance and while you're there, be sure to read their Top 10 Practices of Savvy Donors.