With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday in the rearview mirror, today is possibly the most important of all.

In 2012, an organization in New York started Giving Tuesday – labeled a “global generosity movement – to encourage people everywhere to donate their money, time or effort to help their communities and the world at large.

Giving Tuesday benefits all sorts of local, national and international charities, from the United Way and Pennies for Poverty, to Save the Children and the American Red Cross.

If you open your checkbook or click on a link to donate to a local charity your effort will benefit the organization and allow you to deduct that donation from your income tax filing next year. It’s the boost to the charity that’s most important, of course, and most of them are eager to add to their revenue in 2019, before the new year. 

The organization Givingtuesday.org – which tracks these things – says $400 million was donated by people all over the country to charities last year, with the average gift being just over $100. 

Much like Small Business Saturday, Giving Tuesday can do considerable good when generosity is applied locally. Small Business Saturday aims to emphasize the importance of local businesses, many of which rely on this shopping season to make the year a success. The same goes for many nonprofits, which count on the generosity people feel during this holiday season.

Charity Navigator’s website includes a searchable database that yields the names, websites and contact information of local charities.  Search for Gloucester, for example, and you come up with 45 nonprofits, from the Gloucester Education Foundation to Schooner Adventure. A search for Rockport turns up 19 organizations, from Rockport Music to the Friends of the Rockport Library.

Whether you’re inclined to donate locally or to a national or international group, the Better Business Bureau urges donors to be sure the money they give goes to a legitimate organization. This is high season for scammers, after all. 

The BBB urges people to watch out for charities with similar names. Check to be sure you have the exact name of the charity of your choice.

Review the charity’s website before pushing the “donate” button. Responsible charities tend to be transparent and includes details about their missions, goals, achievements and finances. You also can check www.charitynavigator.org to get the facts and financials on an organization. The BBB’s site, www.give.org, is also a good resource.

The BBB recommends avoiding charities that don’t disclose. “Although participation is voluntary, charities that don’t disclose any of the requested information to BBB ... raise a critical red flag for donors,” the bureau said in a press advisory.

Donors should look into the tax status of an organization before giving, too. Don’t assume every organization claiming to do good is a tax-exempt charity. Financial disclosure forms will make that clear. Keep in mind that if an group isn’t registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt organization, your contribution won’t be tax deductible.

The BBB also advises against making hasty decisions about giving to unfamiliar organizations, and watching out for emotional appeals.

The state offers good advice about donating to charities and hosts a database to research the disclosures of those based in Massachusetts. It’s online at www.mass.gov/donating-to-a-charity.

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