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Money, money, money

Ben Franklin gave us two certainties: death and taxes. So what you do with your income after the tax man cometh—and before your bell tolls—is up to you. To make a positive impact on your life, consider giving to a nonprofit. If you know giving is the right thing to do but are unsure of how much, think about this.

While some historical records suggest tithing (or giving ten percent of your income) before spending on anything else, there are no specific laws dictating your generosity. The average American donates 3.1 percent of their income to charities, which equates to nearly $1,620 a year or $3 a day. More interestingly, households that make less than $10,000 donate about 5 percent of their income.

So consider a rule that your giving should allow you to manage your household comfortably while still making an impact on the community. Don’t worry that you’re not going to give enough to make a difference. Most organizations can use all gifts, large and small, to make an impact on your community.

Now that you’ve set aside your giving budget, it’s time to decide how to disperse it. There are thousands of organizations needing assistance so start by looking at your passions. Maybe you’ve had someone personally affected by a disease or you appreciate the arts. At this stage, don’t worry about how many nonprofits you’re choosing.

With your list of potential candidates, do some research. The IRS requires 501(c)3 organizations to publish 990 forms for public review. This document allows you to see how the nonprofit organization operates and the financial health of an organization. You can obtain the 990 from an organization’s website or make a request to see it. is a great website for analyzing nonprofit data.

So what are you looking for? You want an organization that uses their annual budget responsibly and has a dedicated staff and board wanting to make a difference through their mission.

After doing your homework, you should have the information you need to give to the nonprofits you want to help. If your desire to help surpasses your budget, then give them a hand. Most nonprofits have a volunteer program where you can make an impact on their mission.