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Microgiving: 7 Steps to Successful Online Charitable Giving

Tools and tips to get you started

Making charitable contributions requires serious decisions. How much can you afford to give and feel that you're making a difference? Who do you most want to benefit from your support? Which charities can you trust?

Here are a few tools and tips to help get you going.

See also: AARP Foundation Gift Planning.

1. Figure an amount. It's a good idea to budget for charitable giving, just as you would budget for anything else. As a starting point, consider that the average American household gives about 2.1 percent of its after-tax income to charity. Older Americans give at higher rates (2.5 percent for ages 65 and over, 5 percent for ages 75 and over).

If microphilanthropy is new to you, consider setting aside a certain percent of your overall charitable giving for that purpose. No matter how you slice it, though, planning begins with a well-thought-out budget. Be sure to bring your financial adviser or tax adviser — if you use one — into the loop.

2. Consider your causes. If you search out causes that have some special resonance with your beliefs, interests and life experiences, the "micro" approach to giving might appeal to you. Start by listing some of those causes. Number them in order of importance to you.

3. Do some math. It's time to allocate. Slice your pie in equal pieces or give more to your top cause and less to the others. Undoubtedly you'll fine-tune these numbers as you go, but you have to start somewhere.

4. Match causes with charities. The Internet makes it a lot easier to find a charity doing the kind of work you want to support — and to make a contribution to that charity. Most charities now process online contributions, and nearly all of those welcome gifts of any amount, large or small.

To search for prospective charities, join the keywords that interest you with the word "charity." Or review Your Guide to Microgiving Websites.

Next: Exercise Due Diligence. >>

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