Happy #GivingTuesday!

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Of all the post-Thanksgiving hashtagged holidays, #GivingTuesday is our favorite.

We like the idea of a day focused on charitable giving,  although we do urge caution at this time as well.

Before you donate to any charity, we encourage you to look into its status. Is it registered with the IRS as a 501(c) (3)? What percentage of the funds raised go to overhead like salaries and marketing and what percentage funnels directly to the charity’s intent? Have you read the charity’s mission statement to be sure its goals align with yours?

Because so many companies, including PayPal and Facebook, offer matching funds, Giving Tuesday offers great incentives to make a financial contribution today. But, we also urge you to pay wisely, especially for online donations. Make sure the address includes the “S” to indicate it is secure as in https:// rather than http://. Don’t donate from a public computer or using an unsecure Wi-Fi connection.

If money is tight this year, there are plenty of other ways to participate. You can volunteer your time – sort food for a local pantry, ring bells for the Salvation Army, sign up for a charitable fun run, etc.

You could also donate things you already have, which is often a win/win for you and the charity. Take clothes to Goodwill and slightly used coats, hats and mittens to Coats for Kids or check with your local schools or jails to see if they need donated clothing items.

Food banks accept unexpired and unopened pantry items. Libraries, the Salvation Army and Goodwill all accept donations of gently used books.

Even if you don’t have time today to vet a charity, or collect donations, or ring a bell you can still participate by just being kind. Wave a car into traffic, visit a lonely neighbor, compliment a worker, or call a friend.