7 Ways You Can Make a Donation to Charity

Man giving charity to a beggar

Uriel Sinai / Getty Images

Today, there are numerous ways in which to make that donation to your favorite cause, from using your checkbook to setting up a foundation or entering your credit card number online. Your donation can be made at all price points and packaged according to your preferences, convenience, and size of your pocketbook.

Key Takeaways

  • You can donate the old-fashioned way by just writing a check.
  • You can help out individuals and charitable organizations by donating food, an old car, furniture, or other necessities.
  • You can make helping others a more communal experience by volunteering or joining a Giving Circle.

Use Your Checkbook

Donating to a charity by writing a check is still the most common form of philanthropy in the world. It is relatively simple and certainly direct. Some of us may have trouble even finding our checkbooks anymore, but we are still more likely to write a check to a charity than hand over our credit card to an online donation form, especially if we are giving a substantial amount. Although online giving grows more important every year, checks still work.

Never doubt that your donation can make a difference even if it is small. Individuals made up more than 68 percent of overall charitable giving in the US during 2018, according to GivingUSA.

Give Online

Online giving is often called crowdfunding. Donors of modest means, in the aggregate, can make an enormous difference. Online giving is still not the primary way that donors give, but it is the fastest-growing method.

Give Through a Donor-Advised Fund

Donating to a donor-advised fund has become quite popular. Also called DFAs, this type of charitable giving has grown exponentially. In 2020, grants from DAFs to qualified charities totaled an estimated $34.67 billion, up 27 percent from 2019.

Donor-advised funds are charitable giving accounts, offered by a sponsoring organization, that are designed to be accessible, simple and less expensive alternatives to setting up a private foundation. Put your money in, let the sponsoring institution manage it, and then make a donation to the cause of your choice. 

A DFA can often be started with a contribution as low as $5,000. The home institution invests the money, and the donor can make grants from that asset when and to whom he or she pleases.

Also, once you set up a DFA, the sponsoring organization provides plenty of help in choosing charities to support by doing the research for you.

There is much to like about DFAs since they provide easy donating plus a possible charitable tax deduction.

Set Up a Private or Family Foundation

Some high-net-worth donors and families set up private family foundations for their charitable activities.

Although some private foundations are large and well known (the Rockefeller Foundation, for example), with matching staffs, most of the approximately eighty thousand private foundations are unstaffed and have less than $1 million in assets.

The IRS has lots of rules for private foundations, including requiring that they give out a certain percentage of their assets each year. Even if your foundation is small, you'll need good legal advice and a team to hammer out objectives, to research charities, and handle the finances.

Nevertheless, setting up a private foundation is the best way to make sure your charitable contributions entirely match your values and interests. 

Start with Foundation Source where you can find the whys and wherefores of setting up a private foundation.

Join a Giving Circle

If you've ever belonged to a book or investment club, then you know the basics of a giving circle. Giving circles are relatively new to the philanthropic scene but have gained ground rapidly. Making your donation through a giving circle is both fun and practical.

Where to look for a giving circle? Your local community is an excellent place to start, especially when you're looking for a smaller, neighborly type of circle. But plenty of giving circles have gone state-wide or nationally. 

For more information, check out the National Giving Network and AARP's Giving Circle Guide for Women

Donate Your Car, Food, or Clothing

Donating your old car could be just the trick to get it out of your driveway and to do some good. Although there are car donation scams, you can do it in more ways than ever that benefit a great charity. Just follow our rules of the road.

Don't forget about donating other things too, such as furniture, appliances, food, and clothing. Food pantries and thrift shops have more needs than ever. For food pantries near you, check out FoodPantries.org. Find these types of charities in your neighborhood and know that you are engaging in the most direct giving of all.

Give Your Time

Volunteering doesn't cost a dime, and it is the "in" thing to do these days. More volunteers than ever, in all age groups and from all backgrounds, are finding their way to causes that inspire them.

Volunteering has changed dramatically over recent years. Now you can serve in person or digitally by becoming a virtual volunteer. You can even combine travel and volunteering.

You can also tailor volunteering to your interests, lifestyle, and availablity. Volunteering is great for teens, for people looking for friends and can help you land a job. It also may just make you healthier.

Whether you have one hour a week or one day a year to give, use our tips to help you find your perfect volunteer opportunity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Safest Way To Donate to a Charity?

Make sure the charity you choose is reputable and you can see where its donations go. Donate via credit card or check. If you choose to donate online, make sure the webpage where you enter your payment information has “https” in the web address. That means your information will be encrypted and secure.

What Are Some Ways You Can Support a Charity?

You can support a charity by donating your time, money, or resources. You can volunteer, make a donation, or give away items you don't need anymore.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Giving USA. "Americans gave $427.71 billion to charity in 2018 amid complex year for charitable giving."

  2. National Philanthropic Trust. "The 2021 DAF Report."

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