Six ways to help a charity

Charitable institutions and organisations play a vital role in fabric of our society. Up until the Second World War it was charities and not the government that provided the vast majority of support to vulnerable and disadvantaged people.

Today charities provide services that cater for a broad cross section of needs, including health, social services, education, sport and recreation, arts and culture, environment, animal welfare and human rights. A look at some statistics gives a picture of just how significant the sector is:

  • 600 000 not-for-profits in Australia
  • 43% focus on social and community welfare as their main purpose
  • 17% focus on education
  • Charities contribute about $43 billion to gross domestic product
  • They employed approximately 890 000 people
  • They received around $5.1 billion in donations

A giving nation
Australia has a proud history as a “giving nation” that strongly supports charitable work. Not all donations, however, need to be financial. There are other valuable ways to contribute to charitable work that may suit those of us who may not have the financial resources to give much from the pocket. Here are six ways that you can help.

1. Direct cash donation
The most obvious way to support charities is to make a financial contribution. There would be few of us that have not made donations to charities who we feel are making a worthwhile difference to those less fortunate than ourselves.

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For some charities, donations can help provide school resources for impoverished communities

One of the side benefits of doing so is the potential for tax deductibility. As long as the donation is at least $2 and you don’t gain a personal benefit from the contribution then it may be deductible. The organisation must also be classed as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) by the tax office. To check if this status applies to the organisation you are donating to click here.

If you do receive some minor benefit from making a contribution, then some of that contribution may still be a tax deductible. For example, if you buy tickets to a fundraising dinner where the value of the dinner is only a small proportion of the donation amount, then you may be entitled to some tax deduction for a portion of the amount. There are certain conditions that apply to this, so for more information on what is allowable click here.

2. Multiply your gift using life insurance
Another way of giving financially that allows you to multiply the value of your contribution is to use a life insurance policy. You can either nominate your preferred charity as one of the policy beneficiaries or take out a separate policy specifically for the benefit of the charity. You pay the premiums on the policy now and when you die the charity receives the policy proceeds. This will generally mean that they receive a much larger sum of money than you would ever have been able to donate directly.

Care needs to be taken if you want to use this method to avoid causing issues for your estate and other beneficiaries, so it is best to seek the advice of a financial planner as well as some taxation advice if you want to pursue this.

3. Donate items
Got some old clothing or furniture you no longer need? Perhaps some household items gathering dust in the garage? Such items may be of little or no use or value to you, but may well be very valuable to a charity. They may be able to use the items directly in their work, direct them to a needy person who could use them, or sell them to raise funds for other purposes.

4. Donate your skills and services
Perhaps you have a specialised skill that may be of use to a charity. This may only cost you some time rather than money and could be extremely valuable to the charity concerned. Skills such as photography, report writing, communications and social media skills, accounting and bookkeeping and trade skills such as carpentry or building are just some of the possibilities.

5. Volunteer your time
Even if you don’t have particular skills to offer, many charities will be just as grateful for some willing hands and hearts to help with their work. Think of welfare services and community centres. You may be able to help with one-on-one assistance such as reading to children, paying a friendly visit or providing labour to pack items, assist with mailings etc. To see where you may be able to help click here.

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Mother and daughter volunteers Carol and Jo Brislane during their assignment in Munda, Solomon Islands back in 2011 (Photo: DFAT / Flickr)

6. Pay it forward on special occasions
Got a birthday or other celebration coming up? Instead of your guests giving you a gift, why not ask them to make a donation to a specific charity to the same value? You can simply mention it in your invitation and have all that spending directed to someone in more need than you! It’ll make you feel better and your celebration guests will get that warm feeling too.

What are your ideas for some ways to give to charity? Share your thoughts below.

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