Charitable Giving

It’s that time of the year again: a combination of New Year’s resolutions and the start of tax time has many of us looking for a place to donate money. It can be difficult to figure out which charity is most deserving of your money and how to make your charitable donations work best for your financial situation.  

You might have a favorite charity, like a local group or someone with whom you’ve worked for years. If not, finding the right charity can be a difficult task, both because unethical individuals may want to exploit the best intentions of others and because running a nonprofit organization is a difficult task, making many well-intentioned charities ineffective at fulfilling their mission. 

Check out the charity with an objective watchdog group 

One of the difficulties with charitable giving is understanding where your money goes. In recent memory, there might be no better example of the confusion surrounding a charity than Invisible Children, the organization behind Kony 2012. It soared into the public consciousness a few years ago behind a viral marketing campaign, followed by a very public arrest of one of its central figures after an alleged act of public indecency.

In the wake of his arrest, various reports accused the organization of diverting attention from larger human rights abuses in the region and questioning the financial background of the organization. It’s unclear, even this far removed, what happened with Invisible Children, and whether the public backlash was warranted, but various watchdog groups certainly paint the charity in a positive light. That’s why the best way to determine whether a charity is a good organization and worthy of your donation is to check with the three biggest charity watchdog organizations: Charity Navigator (, Charity Watch (, and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (, all of which are also endorsed by Consumer Reports. 

Verify each charity’s tax-exempt status 

Never assume an organization has tax-exempt status, even if it might seem like it does or should. For example, some universities offer tax-exempt donations for their general scholarship funds and other donations, but giving to specific departments or organizations, such as the debate team or theater department, is not tax-exempt. Even if your donation was tax-exempt last year, even if someone involved in the organization tells you that they’re tax-exempt, even if you’re 99% sure the organization is tax-exempt, check with the IRS website at 

Always give money directly 

One way that scammers will use the goodwill of charities for their own benefit is to call people and ask for donations over the phone. Don’t assume that someone who calls you actually works for the organization. Instead, finish your conversation and then donate directly to the organization. Even legitimate fundraisers often take 40 percent of the proceeds, keeping your money from the people you really want to help.

Donating directly also gives you more control over the paperwork, ensuring you get all the documents you need for a tax deduction. You can also confirm the quality of the organization and that the organization is tax-exempt. 

Make sure to request privacy 

Once you’ve given money to a charity, it’s easy to end up on countless lists with people calling constantly from other charities. If you’ve ever given money to a political campaign, you’ve probably already experienced this. Some of our members report that they’ve received correspondence from political parties for decades, even after switching political parties. So be careful! Make sure you care enough about the charity that it won’t bother you to have your dinner interrupted or get junk mail. 


20 Ways To Celebrate Father’s Day- Without Breaking The Bank!

We all want to show our dads that we care on Father’s Day. Many people panic and run straight for the ties. But unless your father is a necktie aficionado and you can land him the rarest of rare finds in men’s fashion, you may want to consider something else that shows how well you know and appreciate your dad. Here are 20 ways you can honor your father this Father’s Day.

  1. Get fishing licenses for both of you and go fishing!
  2. College mascot-branded duct tape for the sports fan/handyman.
  3. Take in a minor league baseball game.
  4. Detail his car with a vinyl cleaner (Armor All) and a vacuum.
  5. Take a trip to the driving range together.
  6. Dust and sort his toolbox – don’t forget to label the wrenches and sockets!
  7. Tackle the mowing, raking or other yard work.
  8. Personalized coffee mug – write on a blank mug with sharpies, bake at 450 for 30 minutes!
  9. Build your own BBQ rub or sauce using dad’s favorite flavors.
  10. Give the grill a thorough cleaning.
  11. Clean and organize the shed or garage – it’s probably been on his to-do list all year!
  12. Grab a few of his favorite classic movies on DVD or Blu-Ray (but make sure he has a Blu-Ray player first!).
  13. Pick up a few cuts of meat and ask him to teach you how to grill them.
  14. Offer him a “tech tutorial” on how to better use a device he already owns.
  15. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity together – working with him to improve your community!
  16.  Find a local historical site and arrange a walking tour.
  17. Build something with him – like a bird house or a spice rack.
  18. Pack a picnic lunch and head to a local park!
  19. Just spend time with him doing the things he likes to do.
  20. Put a new spin on the old necktie cliché – buy a old necktie at a thrift store, do a web search for “DIY Necktie Eyeglass case” and follow the instructions to make this unique gift. Buy a pair of sunglasses to put inside before you give it to him. 

Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union

Four Ways To Save This Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and it’s easy to get caught up in the last-minute scramble for gifts. Much to the delight of florists and gift vendors, this happens every year. With expensive flowers or jewelry as the top gifts, it’s easy to go over budget if you look to traditional options. To help decrease your stress level and save your money, we have found some surefire ways to tell Mom how special she is without breaking the bank! Whether it’s something you can do for her, or something you do with her, you’re going to be a big winner this Mother’s Day. Here’s four ways for you to save money this Mother’s Day:

1. Do something for her.

Remember the “coupon books” we used to make mom as kids? This time, we’ll make sure it happens! Rather than just offering to do some task in the future, take care of something that will make her life easier today. If she has dogs or pets, you could bathe and walk her dogs, or groom and clean up after other pets. If she never gets a chance to wash her car, clean it out, wash it, and detail it for her. Even if you have to go somewhere to do it, it’s a big gesture for a small amount of money. Cleaning the inside of cars can be hard work and it’s an easy chore to overlook when you’re busy! Having someone else take the time to do it for you is nice. You could also find chores she has to do all the time and do them for her. Tackling tasks, like cleaning the house or maintaining the yard, will let mom spend some time relaxing on her special day. What you do is less important than actually doing it. Pick something you know she would rather not do herself, and do it for her. She’ll appreciate your effort and the results will last a lot longer than just Mother’s Day!

2. Swap out an expensive, traditional gift for something that’s more personalized.

If you were thinking of getting her flowers, don’t spend your money on some cut stems! A rose bush or a flat of small flowers costs the same as a dozen roses and lasts much longer. You can also share the joy of planting the gift with her. If you were going to take her out for lunch or dinner, cook something for her using her favorite dishes or ingredients. You could also pack up her Mother’s Day meal as a picnic for some extra flair! Spa gift cards are expensive, and it might take months for her to get value from it. Instead, look online for some do-it-yourself spa treatments, like bath oils or sugar scrubs. She’ll be more likely to use them right away if they’re in her bathroom and sh’ll appreciate the personal touch.

3.Find something you can do together.

ier if you can do it with someone you know. Rather than just giving mom another gadget, give her a new experience this year. By doing something new together, you make it fun. You also get to spend more time with her: a win-win situation.There are lots of free-to-try classes at gyms, like free introductory yoga or exercise classes. If there was something she’s been meaning to try, call around and see if you can set up a day to take a free class. The effort is important. Many grocery stores now offer cooking classes for free or discounted rates. Some even bring in rotating instructors to get a variety of cooking styles. It could be a real adventure to try a meatless cooking class or a course on a type of cuisine that she likes. There are also lots of inexpensive classes that are offered through most Parks and Recreation Departments. A beginner’s painting class, a dance lesson, or even a guided hiking group might be a fun activity. By making her interests the center of your focus, you’ll be able to make a big impact, and may even help her find a new activity to enjoy. Bring her a registration confirmation for a class or a business card with a date and time on it for the activity. It may not have the presentation value of flowers, but it will prove that you took the initiative. Show her that you care about her interests and value time with her.

4. Go see your mother.

It may sound like a greeting card, but spending time together is a real gift. Invite her over for the day and just enjoy time together. You could always tour museums or hike at a park if you need more to do. Cooking a meal (or even baking cookies) together will give you something to do while talking and is a great bonding activity. If you don’t live near your mother, you could consider helping her set up a free video chat service. That way it will feel more like you’re together, even from miles away. If you still have some home movies from when you were growing up, take a bottle of wine or some snacks and watch them. There is no wrong way to spend time with your mother, but she’ll definitely remember that you did. Have a happy Mother’s Day!