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If you don't know, today is "Giving Tuesday," part of a movement to create an international day of giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season. On Giving Tuesday (or any day), individuals and organizations can make charitable donations, gifts to a nonprofit organization, charity or private foundation. This time of year where we show our gratitude for our friends and family with gifts and celebrations is a perfect time to make a donation. In fact, this season is the busiest time for charitable giving with 31% of donations made in the month of December, according to Charity Navigator.

You want to make sure you are making the most of your charitable donations, so your best bet is to give to a reputable 501(c)(3) charity that aligns with your beliefs. You can give to large national or international organizations with global impact or to smaller local charities which will directly help your community. If you aren't sure of a charity's status, ask for the organization's EIN (Employer Identification Number) and then check to confirm.

Create a budget for how much you'd like to give and don't forget that a larger contribution to one organization has a greater effect than many, smaller contributions. Determine how you'd like to give. Options include one-time gifts or monthly contributions. You can also make donations of real estate, motor vehicles, appreciated securities, clothing and other assets or services. Your contributions may have tax benefits, so be sure to speak with an attorney, accountant or financial planner about how to maximize those charitable contributions.

You may also want to speak with an attorney about planned giving, a charitable gift that you decide to make in the future as part of your estate plans. Planned gifts can take the form of stocks, bonds, real estate, cash, retirement assets, insurance and property. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you make the best decisions regarding your charitable legacy.

For more information about donations and planned giving, watch this year's Thanksgiving Edition of PA Law on PA Live! on WBRE TV and contact Vinsko & Associates with any questions.

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