All of us, rich or poor, feel the urge to help one another in this time of sickness and unemployment. Yet the percentage of Americans donating to charity has hit a new low, according to a recent Gallup poll.
The obvious reason is the uncertainty that most households are facing. If you're struggling to keep food on your table, you can't be expected to start handing out money here and there.
And yet the need is great. “Virtually every organization has had to move to remote services or seen increases in demand,” says Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Any help is really important right now."
Even if you are in a position to give, recent tax-law changes may be holding you back. Currently, only a small minority of Americans are able to reduce their taxes by making deductible contributions, because most filers are now better off taking a standard deduction than itemizing.
Still, there are strategies that lower the cost of giving. Here's how to make the most of them.
1. Get a new deduction. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March, allows taxpayers taking the standard deduction to claim up to $300 in charitable deductions, as well. To qualify, you must give money to what's known as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit — a food bank or religious institution, for example, not a political campaign or a homeowners association. Keep a record of your gifts.