There are, as of this writing, 12 days until the end of the taxable year. That means that you have 12 days to squeeze in most of your remaining tax deductions for 2014 (there are a few exceptions like those for IRA contributions). One of the easiest ways to get a deduction, assuming you itemize, is to make a charitable donation.
With that in mind, today we kick off the first of my 12 Days of Charitable Giving. Readers have suggested deserving charities over the past few weeks and I’ll be posting one a day for – well, 12 days (I’m clever that way). Today we start with … Goodwill Industries.
Goodwill was founded more than 100 years ago in Boston by Rev. Edgar J. Helms. Dr. Helms wanted to go beyond handouts: he collected used goods and hired the poor to repair and resale the times, offering both a job and a marketable skill. He described his idea as an “industrial program as well as a social service enterprise.”
Last year, nearly 10 million people accessed Goodwill services. More than a quarter million earned a job with Goodwill’s help, boosting their collective lifetime earning potential by $15 billion. Retail sales hit $3.79 billion last year in 2,900 stores and online – to put that into perspective, retail giant Sears generated just 10 times more than that number.
Goodwill is made up of 165 independent, community-based locations. Each local Goodwill must be accredited, apply for membership and meet certain criteria established by Goodwill Industries International (most individual locations have a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator, an online site which rates charities based on financial health, accountability and transparency). You can find your local Goodwill here.
To keep stores stocked, Goodwill Industries relies on donations. In 2013, the organization reported 87 million donors (including repeat donors). That’s more than the combined populations of California and Texas.
So how can you help? Donations keep the program going.
To make a donation, you can take your gently used items to any Goodwill location. To find a location near you, check out the map and donation site locator at the top of the home page. When you drop off your items, you’ll be asked to complete a form that you can use as a receipt for your taxes. Remember that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires a receipt to substantiate all non-cash donations.
You can also drop your items at a Goodwill donation bin (be sure to verify that it’s a Goodwill donation bin). You’ll find contact information on the bin to use for obtaining a receipt for tax purposes. Again, you’ll need that receipt come tax time.
This year, Goodwill also offers a new option for donations: the Give Back Box®. Online retailer Overstock™ and Give Back Box® have partnered to allow Overstock customers the option of re-using their shipping box, along with Give Back Box’s free shipping label, to ship gently used items directly to Goodwill via UPS or USPS at no charge (yes, free). A shipping label can be found in Overstock shipments (I got one!) or printed online. And that receipt for tax purposes? It’s available online.
Valuing donations of used goods can be tricky. Generally, estimating the “thrift shop value” of the items is a good way to value your items (be measured, not greedy). If you’re looking for an easy way to value your donations, Goodwill has partnered with CharityDeductions.com. They have a database of more than 100,000 values from online retailer eBay to help with valuations. The values are said to be compliant with IRS fair market value guidelines, and according to the site, “IRS auditors have reviewed and accepted our methodology.” There is a cost of $24.95 per year for the service but if you want to give it a whirl, you can try it for free and use promo code goodwill later to save 20% off of a one year paid membership.
For more information on valuing donations, check out IRS Publication 561 (downloads as pdf)>
You can also volunteer to help out. Goodwill is in need of both virtual mentors and on the ground help. For more, check out their volunteer page.
As always, you want to make sure that your donation is going to a qualified charitable organization. A search using the their website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.
Remember, submissions to the 12 Days of Charitable Giving are made by readers and in most cases, I can’t personally vouch for the good work that these folks do. So be generous. But be smart. Do your homework.
For more on making charitable donations, check out some of these prior posts:
- Making Your Gifts Count: 10 Smart Tips For Charitable Giving
- 12 Tips for Year End Charitable Giving
- Ask the taxgirl: Charitable Contributions and Receipts
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