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Give Smart: How to Maximize Your Charitable Donation

Julie D'Agostino and Rick Bollman gave the best guide to giving

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The holidays may be over, but the need for charitable donations never ends. Julie D'Agostino, owner of food recovery business Rolling Tomato, and Rick Bollman, operations coordinator at the daytime shelter Corpus Christi House, understand not knowing how or what to give can prevent people from giving at all. They put together this handy list of tips to help you and the nonprofit organization(s) you're supporting get the most out of your generosity.

General Tips for Donating

1. Check to see if the nonprofit has a "wishlist" of specific items it needs. The best place to start is on the organization's website.

2. If you can't find a wishlist, call the nonprofit and ask if it's in need of what you have to give. It may need it at a later date, so this will help maximize your donation by making sure you donate what the organization really needs, when it needs it. As a bonus, offer to help create a wishlist and keep it updated throughout the year.

3. Don't drop items off at the curb. Schedule a time with a contact person for delivery and make sure to give your items only to staff members (unless otherwise instructed). Get a receipt.

4. Cash is king—and queen, too. If you're unsure of what to give or unable to source what a nonprofit needs, money is the most flexible gift so they can buy what is truly needed.

Tips for Donating Food

1. Keep in mind that candy, cookies, cakes and sweets in general are not needed by organizations that feed the hungry and food insecure. They need protein, produce and other nutrient-dense foods. Consider giving sweets to organizations that host social activities instead, and always call first to check if your food donation is appropriate.

2. Be sure to label and date your food donation. If possible, list the ingredients and include instructions for preparation or reheating. Sometimes volunteers prepare meals and directions will ensure the food is served at its best.

Tips for Donating Time

1. Ask a nonprofit what kind of help it needs, whether it's for a special event, weekly meal assistance or a special project. You could even offer to put together a team to tackle a big job.

2. Most nonprofits operate year round, so consider volunteering outside of the popular holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Summer can come with a shortage of volunteers, so remember to ask when you'd be most needed.

3. Use your professional and personal skills to benefit the organization. Tell the nonprofit about your talents and ask how you can help. Maybe you can teach a class, organize a project, assist with accounting, help with construction/painting, give haircuts, or whatever else best uses your strengths.

4. Beyond all of these tips, always remember the most important thing is your willingness to give. Don't let anxiety about the process keep you from donating or volunteering in 2018: Nonprofits are always happy to have help.