7 top tips for charitable giving

If you're over the commercialism of Christmas and want to get into the spirit of charitable giving, charities are eager for the help. With the recession, many nonprofits have seen charitable giving drop, so your donation this year will mean more than ever. But just because you're feeling generous doesn't mean you shouldn't be wise. Here are the top seven tips for charitable giving and avoiding frauds:

Charitable Giving Tip #1: Be specific and proactive with your personal mission. Though you have more than 1 million charities to choose from, you're wise to focus your charitable giving on a few causes rather than spreading your donations thin. That way, you have a better chance of making a significant difference. This means doing some homework instead of just giving to any organization that solicits donations. Spend some time deciding what your specific mission is and whether you want your charitable giving to make a difference with that cause on a local, national or global basis. Don't just settle for a charity that is close to doing something in an area you're sort of interested in -- your goal with charitable giving is to hit the bulls-eye. (Also, check on the donor rights of your charity -- make sure it has a donor privacy policy, where it agrees not to sell or trade your contact information.)