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A Guide to Volunteering and Donating

Donating money, items, or volunteering your time at a non-profit or public agency benefits not only the targeted population but also yourself. Funding will help organizations provide their services, donated items can be used by less-fortunate individuals to establish a home for themselves, and volunteer hours can help groups continue to operate. Participating in charity organizations enables you to help less fortunate persons move towards living healthy, productive lives. In minutes or just a few short hours, you can make a difference in your community or the nation.

  • Why Volunteer?: Provided by the Rhode Island Hospital System, this short article discusses the benefits of volunteering.
  • Benefits of Volunteering: Written by Susan Ellis, this article discusses the reasons why volunteering benefits everyone. The page is provided by Charity Guide, a website that provides volunteering information and opportunities to users.
  • Why Volunteer?: Hosted by the University of Missouri, St. Louis, this page discusses why students should volunteer. However, the information is pertinent individuals other than students.
  • UMN Service Learning Center: Why Volunteer?: Provided by the University of Minnesota Service Learning Center, this page discusses the many benefits of volunteering.
  • Top Reasons to Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter: Written by the Humane Society, this article discusses the reasons for volunteering with animals.
  • Volunteer Connection: Provided by the city of Boulder, Colorado, this page contains personal testimonials of volunteers.
  • Benefits of AmeriCorps Service: This article discusses the benefits of working for AmeriCorps, a government sponsored volunteer agency.

While many groups accept financial donations, some also accept donations of household items or clothing. Many fine charities accept donated cars, boats, RV’s, used trucks, and heavy equipment which are sold to benefit the charity and providing legal tax deductions for donors. A few of these charities also can provide the donor both a partial cash payment and the potential for a tax deduction for certain qualified donations. Some charities provide donated items to needy persons or sold at a low cost and the proceeds used to fund the organization’s efforts. Both types of donations are tax-deductible: monetary donations for their exact amount, and items the value ascribed to them by the federal government. If the amount of these donations exceeds the standard tax deduction established by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you may be able to itemize them and claim a larger deduction.

You can also volunteer your time with an organization. Often, this is the most sought-after type of volunteering by charitable groups. However, one of the most important aspects of volunteering is to choose a group or job that is right for you. Also important, but not necessary, is that after volunteering you anticipate leaving feeling as though you have made a difference. Without this emotion, you could begin to feel as though you are wasting your time and eventually find volunteering less enjoyable. The IRS does not permit you to ascribe a value to your volunteer hours and deduct that amount from your taxes.

  • Determining the Value of Donated Property: On this page, the IRS provides the values ascribed to donated property.
  • Noncash Charitable Contribution Tax Form: This link directs to the form required by the IRS to be completed and filed with your return for non-cash charitable contributions that exceed $500.00.
  • Tax Tips and Calculators: On this page H&R Block gives advice about including charitable deductions on your tax return.

To make volunteering as enjoyable as possible, consider what you want to do when volunteering. Do you want to interact with people or would you prefer to organize the office files? Prior to agreeing to volunteer with a particular group, make sure that you support their objective and that your schedule permits you to fulfill the time commitment they request. Another aspect that could make or break your volunteering experience is the amount of time it takes you to travel to the location. Traveling long distances could become a burden that you begin to resent over time.

  • Selecting the Right Program: This page, provided by the International Volunteer Programs Association, discusses considerations to make when choosing a volunteer program.
  • 10 Tips for Volunteering Wisely: This page provides advice about things to think about when determining where to volunteer.
  • 7 Tips for Finding the Right Volunteer Work: This U.S. News and World Report article discusses how to find a volunteer position that fits your lifestyle and personality.
  • Tips for Navigating Your Volunteer Options: Provided by Washington University in St. Louis, this page provides recommendations for choosing a volunteer opportunity.

Finding a company or organization to donate to or volunteer with may be easier than you anticipate. You may be surprised by the number of volunteering or donating opportunities right outside your doorstep. Local organizations or agencies focusing on issues in your community may need assistance with fundraising, event management, or day-to-day operations. Many times, you can find these organizations by contacting your local business bureau or your secretary of state’s office. Another place to search for volunteering opportunities is online. Non-profit organization are often searching for assistance with updating or maintaining their website or with projects that can be completed by telecommuting volunteers, such as entering information into a database. The essential aspect to your search should be determining that the group or agency is, in fact, a non-profit organization with a charitable purpose.

  • Volunteer Match: This site permits users to search for local volunteering opportunities based on their personal criteria.
  • 1-800-Volunteer.org: This site provides a search engine of volunteering opportunities searchable by keyword or location. Please note that the website itself is a for-profit site.
  • Volunteer.gov: This website provides users to search for volunteering opportunities at America’s natural parks or other protected natural land areas. This site is owned and operated by the Federal Government.
  • Serve.gov: Created by the federal government, this site permits individuals to search for volunteering opportunities or create an opportunity.
  • Take Pride: This website provides individuals with the ability to volunteer for events at any of the public lands operated by the Federal Government.
  • The Humane Society: The Humane Society is a major animal advocacy group and non-profit organization. Their website provides an opportunity to donate to their cause.
  • Texas Secretary of State, Nonprofit Organizations: This site contains the Texas Secretary of State’s information on non-profit organizations registered in the state. It is listed here as an example of the information that can be found on a state’s website.
  • State of Utah Refugee Office: This website provides volunteer opportunities for this state-run program. This link is provided as an example of local volunteer opportunities.
  • The Association of Junior Leagues International: An all-female organization, this group provides volunteer through its local service chapters. Search the site to find a chapter near you.
  • Network for Good: This organization emphasizes online volunteer opportunities and donations.
  • American Institute of Philanthropy: This page provides the Institute’s highest rated agencies based on percentage of investment of donated funds, amount of public support, and other criteria.

There are also opportunities to volunteer or donate to international charitable organizations. These organizations typically use manpower or funding to assist communities in third-world communities. Here again you can choose the group and involvement that fits your lifestyle; money may help the group build a water purification plant, but if you are willing to travel abroad you may be able to build that plant with your hands. Here again, the most important aspect of any international group is to ensure that it is, in fact, a charitable organization. Research the group’s background and legal status prior to committing time or funds.

  • Peace Corps: Established in 1961, the Peace Corps is a government-sponsored international volunteering agency. Volunteers dedicate 27 months to working abroad.
  • AmeriCorps: A government sponsored group, AmeriCorps provides local and national volunteer opportunities to Americans.
  • American Red Cross: The Red Cross is an emergency response organization that provides medical services and other care to persons affected by war or natural disasters. Local and international volunteering opportunities are available.
  • Lighthouse International: This charitable organization reading services to vision-impaired individuals across the globe.
  • Universal Giving: This organization gathers and researches international charitable groups to ensure they are legitimate. Individuals seeking to donate or volunteer can search to find groups to become involved with.
  • Habitat for Humanity International: Dedicated to building homes, this is the organization’s website for its international volunteering opportunities.
  • Doctors without Borders: This organization sends trained physicians and nurses abroad to provide medical care to needy communities.

Volunteering your time or donating money or property such as used autos, trucks, motorhomes, or boats to a charitable cause is one of the best ways to promote the welfare of your community. Your time, energy, and commitment will not be overlooked by those you help.

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