By Lori Chillingworth
Senior Vice President & Manager
Zion’s Bank Women’s Financial Group
Tax day is looming and many people are contemplating ways to reduce what we owe to Uncle Sam. Here is a way to do something with your money and gain a tax deduction at the same time—donate to charity! Donations to charitable organizations traditionally dip during the spring and summer months as attentions shifts to warmer weather, yard work, and the end of school. This year as you prepare to file your taxes, make a plan to include charitable donations in your budget. You’ll reap multiple benefits.
Keep in mind that in order to qualify for deduction, your donation must be made to a qualified organization that is registered as such with the IRS. There are two ways to determine your deductions: standard deduction and the itemized deduction. In order to use charitable deductions, you must itemize your tax return—if you use the standard deduction, you may not claim them.
With so many charities to choose from, selecting just the right one for the just the right cause can be tricky. In order to make sure that your dollars go to the right place, think of your charitable donations as investments, and research the organizations you are considering as you would a stock you are thinking of buying. However you go about the process, remember—don’t ever give without getting the facts on the organizations. Not all charitable organizations are what they seem.
Here is a checklist of questions you should ask when looking at a nonprofit:
• Who is running the show?
• How does the organization support the cause?
• How does the organization measure success?
• How does the organization use it funds?
Not all charitable organizations are exactly what they seem. That are several organizations that can help you evaluate a charity’s financials:
• Council of Better Business Bureaus www.bbb.org
• Charity Watch www.charitywatch.org
• Internet Nonprofit Center www.nonprofits.org
• National Charities Information Bureau Charitable Giving Guide for cancer agencies, relief agencies and environmental organizations. www.avagara.com/nonprof/accountability/reference/99080203.htm
Whenever possible, try to visit the charity before making a contribution—just by having a look around, you should have a sense of whether or not it’s an organization you’d like to support. If you can’t have direct contact with the charity, try to talk to a trusted friend who has.
Giving to qualified charities can not only help someone in need, but it can help reduce your taxes significantly. As your close out the old fiscal year and plan for the next, think about the many benefits charitable donations can bring to you and your family.
Lori Chillingworth is a regular contributor on Studio 5. When Lori began her career in banking, almost 20 years ago, she knew she wanted to become part of the lending area of the bank, to assist small businesses. As she worked diligently to get into the small business area of lending, primarily dominated by men, she recognized the struggles small business, primarily women business owners, had in communicating and obtaining financing from financial institutions.
In 1997, Lori joined Zions Bank and opened the Women’s Financial Group. This group has been dedicated to helping, not only women obtain capital for their businesses, but to help the bank understand the needs and communication necessary to be successful in reaching the women’s market. The WFG group currently has offices in Salt Lake, Boise, Idaho Falls, Utah County and Weber County.
Lori believes the key to financial success is through education. She provides seminars and presentations to women throughout Utah to help them better understand money matters. Not only Women Business Owners, but all women who want to better educate themselves so they can have confidence in making decisions in regards to money. She also educates financial institutions and other organizations on the importance of the women’s market. She believes it is the responsibility of professionals in the industry to continue to provide educational programs to women. Most recently she has spearheaded the production of free conferences held in 2004, 2005, and 2006 at the Salt Palace, entitled “Smart Women Smart Money”. Zions Bank was the major sponsor of this function, and speakers and workshops addressed issues central to women and their financial needs. The same program for September 27, 2007 is now in the planning stages.
For more information about Zion’s Bank Woman’s Financial Group visit www.zionsbank.com.