Giving Back During Back-to-School Season

What you should know before donating to your favorite school.

Whether you’re a recent alum, an unfortunate shopper who picked the wrong check-out line, or – the likeliest candidate – the parent of a current student, odds are this time of year has you thinking about back-to-school. If you’re the first or the last, Charities Review Council is here to help you when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of making a charitable donation to your favorite school. (If you’re the second, we recommend shopping online.)

Donating money to schools: What you should know

Are you interested in supporting your alma mater? Or, what about your child’s elementary school? What are the tax implications?

Well, the IRS allows a tax deduction for donations given to any qualified organizations, which include “any school that does not operate for profit,” writes Janet Berry-Johnson for Forbes. “The level of the school does not matter. Any school from preschool to grad school qualifies, as long as it is not for profit.”

But remember: you will not be able to make the tax deduction “without a receipt from the organization or a bank record such as a canceled check, bank statement or credit card statement that shows the name of the organization, date, and amount of the contribution.”

If you donate more than $250 in cash, the recipient organization will need to give written acknowledgment of the donation in order for you to deduct it. In other words, have the school write a receipt detailing the “name of the school or organization, the date, and amount of the donation,” as well as “a statement that you received no good or services in exchange for your donation.”

Check-writing not your style?

Say you want to be more involved than writing a check, but can’t make a time commitment to in-class volunteering — teachers and their students are woefully shorthanded when it comes to school supplies and equipment. Give back by purchasing items from their wish list, and your donation is still tax-deductible. Some organizations publish – or make available upon request – wish lists of resources that would improve their students’ learning experience. Urban Arts Academy‘s wish list, for example, ranges from colored pencils to a dustpan. That old computer you haven’t touched since you bought your new MacBook? Minnesota Computers for Schools will gladly put it to use at a school in need.

Almost everyone has a way to give back: money, unused equipment, professional services, or acting as a liaison at your work in organizing a company-wide fundraiser. Even students on a budget and with limited schedules can make it work — some organizations, such as AchieveMPLS, offer internships for school credit, so students can give back at the same time as they get something they need.

Ultimately, although there are some stipulations to keep in mind when donating money to a school or educational organization, it’s equally as important not to limit the kind of contribution. What does your recipient need, and what do you have to give?

The following educational organizations Meet Standards® and accept various types of contributions:

See more on our list of Reviewed Nonprofits. (Hint: search “school,” “education,” and other keywords related to your preferred area of focus.)

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