Tips and Tricks for Donating to a Charity

by Dec 10, 2020Personal Finance

Despite the healthcare, societal and political mess we’re in, veterinary professionals have a lot to be grateful for. 

One way to return the favor is to give to those in need. The end of the year is traditionally when most people donate, and often for tax purposes as last-minute deductions. 

Beyond that motivation, donating to a non-governmental organization (NGO) has multiple benefits:

  • It’s a way to give back to the universe
  • It’s a way to help your fellow human
  • It’s a way to help a worthy cause, even though you can’t directly or physically contribute
  • It’s a way to give a hand when you can’t donate time
  • It’s a way to help when you can’t physically help because of geography
  • It’s a way to show your kids, family and friends that giving is generous
  • It’s a way to make a difference in the world
  • Above all, it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Donating feels good. 

If you need inspiration, here are a few ideas:

  • A cause you care about for personal reasons: cancer research, heart disease… 
  • Animals: homeless pets, elephants, baby seals, whales, rabies vaccination, zoos…
  • Nature: the rainforest, WWF…
  • Helping your fellow human: homeless people, digging water wells, providing toilets…
  • Kids: kids with horrible diseases, orphans, vaccination, kids with birth defects…
  • Education: scholarships, libraries…
  • Women: widows, single moms…
  • Medicine: Doctors Without Borders, Veterinarians Without Borders…

The list is endless! 

The challenge is that there are some truly worthy causes, and a number of total crooks who can take advantage of you thanks to slick marketing. 

Sometimes, the head honchos are not crooks, they simply run the charity so poorly that very little of your money ends up where it should: generous salaries, high expenses, poor allocation of funds… 

So how can you tell if your charity is a good one? 

Just like you look at reviews when you purchase something online, you can look up most large charities on the websites of “charity watch groups.” 

Criteria used include: financial health, percentage of funds that actually go to the cause, percentage of funds that go to administrative expenses, independence of the executives. 

Importantly, not all charities are rated. Your local animal shelter may be extremely well run, but too small to appear on any charity watch group’s website. 

Here are 3 groups to check out: 

  • is well respected and rates 160,000 charities.
  • calls itself “America’s most independent, assertive charity watchdog.”
  • The BBB Wise Giving Alliance (, affiliated with the Better Business Bureau, rates charities based on 20 criteria.

Since they don’t all rate the same charities, it makes sense to research all 3 sites before donating.



Need inspiration?

Here are some charities we’ve personally donated to over the years:

  • human surgeons travel the world to fix kids’ cleft lips and cleft palate. It’s a simple surgery that truly changes their lives. Before and after pictures are stunning.
  • cofounded by Matt Damon, provides access to safe water and actual toilets in the poorest countries.
  • Cancer research.
  • Multiple sclerosis research.
  • Project Chimps provides lifelong care to former research chimpanzees at its 236-acre forested sanctuary in the Blue Ridge Mountains (Georgia).
  • Local charities: animal shelters, humane societies, the community music school, local children’s hospital, Goodwill etc.


One more tip

In case you haven’t heard of it, there is a slick way to donate to a good cause at no cost to you!

AmazonSmile will send 0.5% of eligible purchases to the charity of your choice. Enroll, choose your charity, and you’re done. It costs you nothing!


Tax benefits

And of course, there is a tax incentive to donate.

  • If you take the standard deduction, you can claim a $300 deduction for charitable giving in addition to the standard deduction.
  • If you itemize, you can deduct up to 100% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for cash donations.

Newsflash: we are not CPAs, so please talk with your tax professional before claiming any deduction.


What if you’re broke?

Money (or appreciated stocks) is not the only way to donate. You can read about other ways to donate here.

Happy donating!

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Meredith Jones, DVM
Co-Founders of Veterinary Financial Summit