Personal Finance

The Giving Effect: Making Connections for a Good Cause

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The Giving Effect‘Tis the season to be giving. Not just to your family and friends, but to people who are in true need. This year, Mitchell Silverman has created The Giving Effect (www.thegivingeffect.com), a conveniently structured website, just in time to connect donors to charities that require a variety of items such as toys, clothes, eyeglasses, and food for their constituencies. Currently, nearly 1,100 cause-based organizations have posted their specific needs on the site.

There are two effects to such giving: First and foremost, your generosity will make the world a better place for someone in need, and you’ll feel a lot better yourself. Second, you can help reduce your taxes through charitable giving, especially if you donate before the end of December.

Silverman has made the whole donation process extremely simple. You can browse the site by needs, location and categories to find the causes that appeal to you. Next, you complete a simple form to arrange for a pick-up, drop off, or shipment. Once the items are received, the organization will send a tax receipt to you via e-mail.

For more good ideas for charitable giving, check out Credit.com’s Philanthropy on a Budget.

Now, if you want the tax break, you have to make sure that you’re giving to an official nonprofit. Most of the organizations on The Giving Effect site are. However, there are a few altruistic folks, such as a math teacher who collects and distributes used calculators to students who need them, who have chosen not to pursue 501 (c) 3 status for their efforts.

Silverman began thinking about the site when he realized that most people hold onto items thinking they may use them someday or give to a family member or friend. Then one day, they wake up and realize they don’t know anyone who can use these items. So, typically, they throw them out or deposit them in a parking lot collection bin and never know what happens to them.

“It’s hard to figure out who could use these items that you have laying around or whose lives could be improved with them,” says Silverman, who test launched the site in July and then officially this December.

Silverman adds that he was intrigued by the fact that millions of people could be motivated to donate to major efforts such as the Haitian earthquake victims’ relief drive, yet it is usually more difficult to generate aid for local charities. The difference, he believes, is awareness and convenience, such as the opportunity for people to send a text that adds a donation to their cell phone bill.

So he figured out a way to connect people who want to give objects they don’t need to someone who can use those items, and do it through an efficient, fair system. Moreover, for any cash donations, The Giving Effect does not take a percentage of the transaction, as some similar sites do. They simply connect the donor to the charity and let the two parties complete their transactions directly.

One nonprofit based in Carrollton, Georgia, Bears on Patrol, collects stuffed animals for police officers to give children in crisis situations, since these toys are known to have a significant calming effect on children in stressful or traumatic circumstances. Bears on Patrol currently supports 11 police departments in seven states and is quickly growing to include more. According to Blake Raab, executive director of the organization, they have already received several shipments of teddy bears and stuffed animals through The Giving Effect.

On the donor side, for Brenda Johnson, who runs the Lake Road Ferret Farm Rescue Shelter in Naples, New York, The Giving Effect has provided a valuable service. As an animal shelter, she frequently receives donations of winter boots or a windbreaker that she uses to raise money via a yard sale, for example. Sometimes, though, she can’t sell every item and ends up having to store them.

“Mitchell’s website offers me an outlet to give the items that I can’t use to the people that can use them,” she says. Recently, someone donated a number of feeding dishes that were in excellent condition, but they were designed for birds, not ferrets. Johnson used The Giving Effect to donate them to a bird sanctuary.

Other social media giving websites provide similar services, such as Network for Good (www.networkforgood.org), which has raised almost $440 million to date for more than 50,000 charitable organizations since it was founded in 2001. On a smaller scale, you can “give packages for the mind” to our troops through Books for Soldiers (www.booksforsoldiers.com).

But if you want to get rid of those motorcycle repair tools you haven’t used since college, The Giving Effect makes it easy. Like their tag line says: Donate your things. Change lives.

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