More and more Americans are choosing to get involved in charitable giving every day. In 2018, over $292 billion was donated to charity by individual Americans. While this is a great development, it can be hard knowing where to start if you’re new to volunteering or donating money. Choosing an organization to work with can be a stressful experience, as can understanding the financial implications of giving and where your donations are being used. As you begin to navigate the world of philanthropy, here are a few tips that will help you along the way.

Identify Passions, Perform Research

When you’re first starting out, the sheer number of organizations that need help can be overwhelming. A great place to start is to think about things you’ve seen in the news that have sparked your interest and concern. Perhaps you’re passionate about foster children, but you’re not sure if you want to help on a local, domestic, or international level. There are plenty of resources available to help you make that decision. In situations where you don’t have a specific group in mind, there are groups such as Charity Navigator that can help you evaluate the best charities that match your interest.

Seek Expert Financial Advice

After deciding on a cause to support, you should seek out a financial advisor who can help you make your donations. Advisors or tax experts can help you parse existing tax laws that may guide how much you can give, and when. Advisors will also sometimes help donors donate things other than money as well. For example, you can donate stock to a charity, and this can help you avoid paying a lot of taxes.

Making Your Donation Count

It’s always best to donate to a charity directly through their website, as opposed to through a third party website. While third-party websites are usually far more convenient, it also means your data isn’t shared with the charity. While it’s great that they’re not sharing your information, it’s also integral that you form a relationship with the group you’ve chosen to work with. When you form a relationship with a charity, they’re then able to share updates with you, as well as letting you know how your donates were used. 

 In the end, getting involved in some way, shape or form is something that anyone can do with ease. Do your research and choose a cause that means something to you, and you’ll be making a difference before you know it.