You Should Make These 11 Easy Donations Before Time Runs Out


It's natural this time of year to feel a little more charitable. Many nonprofit organizations report that they see a surge of donations in the last month of the year, and there are some advantages to making donations before the calendar turns another page.

In addition to keeping with the holiday spirit, giving to charity before year's end ensures that you can get a tax deduction to count for 2014. In in some instances, corporations are in an extra giving mood and will match many cash donations. (See also: 15 Ways to Give to Charity That Fit a Holiday Budget)

If you're feeling charitable or just have some stuff you want to unload, consider these simple donations you can make before 2015 comes around. (Just make sure you keep good records for the tax man!)

1. Clothes and Household Items

There's a good chance you'll get some new clothes and other stuff for the holiday season. Now may be a time to donate some of your older (but still usable) items to a thrift shop or charity such as Goodwill. You'll free up some closet space and get a 2014 tax deduction in the process. This time of year, coats and other warm-weather items are especially needed.

2. Food

Local food pantries are always in need of donations, especially during the winter months. Drop off a few bags of canned goods, or get in touch with a charity such as Meals on Wheels to donate food to a shut-in. You're probably cooking a ton for the holiday feast anyway, so set some aside for a needy family.

3. Shares of Stock

If you've seen portions of your investment portfolio rise in 2014, why not share the wealth? Donating shares of stock is a great way to help out a charity because unlike a cash donation, the contribution may rise in value. You get a tax deduction by donating, and also avoid any capital gains fees you might have otherwise incurred by selling.

4. A Car

If you're thinking of buying a new car in 2015, consider donating your car to charity this year to get the tax benefits. Many charities will accept donations of cars, which they then sell at auctions and pocket the proceeds. Other charities turn the cars over directly to needy families. A car donation is tax deductible, and many charities will even go through the effort to pick up the car from your house free. Donating your car makes sense if you feel like you wouldn't get much for a trade-in anyway.

5. New Toys

It's almost impossible to avoid seeing the U.S Marines manning Toys For Tots stations all over the country. A donation of a new toy will help ensure a great Christmas for an underprivileged child. This year, Toys For Tots is looking to collect 7 million toys. Go to to find a drop-off location near you.

6. Old Building Materials

When my family built a new addition to our house, we donated some old windows and a sliding glass door to a local charity that recycles such things. It was a stress-free way to unload the items, and we got a sizable tax deduction. Contact the Building Materials ReUse Association to see if there's a charity near you.

7. Your Time

Rather than spending a day at a mall indulging in retail excess, consider taking time to help out at a soup kitchen, food pantry, or other charity. Better yet, consider making a commitment to volunteer not only during this holiday season but throughout the year.

8. Your Artistic Talent

This time of year, it's common for organizations to have parties featuring silent auctions as fundraisers. If you're an artist or photographer, why not donate a painting or photograph? It's a great way to direct money to a charity and perhaps also get some exposure for your skills. Similarly, a musician could volunteer to perform holiday music at a charitable event, or even offer free lessons.

9. Cash

This may seem lazy, but most charities are more than happy to receive monetary donations. In fact, sometimes money is the best gift to a charity because they know better than anyone what specific items they need. Donating cash could be as easy as dropping some coins into a Salvation Army pot, or writing a sizable check to another non-profit group.

10. Blood

This time of year, blood donations are often low because people are so busy. But it's a great way to give back in a way that won't cost you a dime. I make a point of donating blood every December 24 at my local Red Cross donation center. It gets me in the Christmas spirit, and there are usually free cookies. Go to to locate a blood drive or donation center near you.

11. Money to Your Future Self

This may not be a "donation" in the classic sense. But it's still a great idea to try to max out your retirement accounts by the end of the year. If you have an IRA, you can contribute up to $5,500 for 2014. Any contribution up until April 15, 2015 counts toward 2014, but why wait?

What will you be giving this year? Please share in comments!

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