Making the Most of Your Charitable Giving

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'Tis the season to give to charity.  Individual donors are expected to give a total of $100 billion during the holiday season, according to the non-profit website Charity Navigator.

Charity Navigator, along with another site called GuideStar, helps donors decide where their dollars may be put to best use.  Charities receive ratings based on fiscal health, accountability and transparency, and results.

Stuart Obermann, president of the Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County, does something similar on a local level.  The non-profit organization works with would-be donors to determine which charities might best meet their giving criteria. Established in 2009, the Community Foundation also ensures the donations are tax-efficient.

Those end-of-year tax deductions, combined with the holidays, lead to a fundraising frenzy for many charities.  Unfortunately, scammers are also anxious to cash in. Obermann urges people to use caution, especially when dealing with telemarketer solicitations.

In addition to Charity Navigator and GuideStar, Obermann says the Better Business Bureau and the IRS can also be valuable resources, adding, "those are good places to go before you write that check, just to make sure the organization you're giving to is legitimate and they've got a mission you believe in."