Here are a few new ways to go about giving to charity and some tips on how to donate effectively:

  • Take the time to think about what causes are most important to you; then concentrate your giving on those issues. Otherwise, you run the risk of sending a little money this way, and a little money that way, and never really being able to keep up with all the activities you're supporting.

  • Get really involved with the organization you're most interested in. You might serve on its board, or volunteer some time working in its office or in the field. If you have some special expertise, such as public relations, marketing, or fund-raising, you might offer those services. This is a good way to learn more about the issues, too.

  • If you have children, involve them in giving, beginning when they're young. Share with them what you're donating and why, and what your gift will do. Encourage them to develop causes that they care about and donate to.

  • If you're not yet blessed with riches (and even if you are), consider all the non-monetary gifts you could give. You might volunteer, for example. Or donate things such as used clothing, computers, and cars to charities that can use them. (If you do, make sure to learn the new tax rules regarding non-cash donations.)

  • Don't give money to organizations that cold-call you. Always investigate them first. There are many hucksters out there calling people and wheedling donations out of them. Some shifty outfits beg for donations of cars, too.

  • If you donate $250 or more to any charity, be sure to keep a receipt or written acknowledgment for tax purposes.

  • Keep records of your donations. If you fail to do this, you might end up totaling donations in your check register at the year's end and realizing that you gave to some organizations much more often than you thought you did.

  • Realize that "tax-exempt" is not the same as "tax-deductible." A tax-exempt organization doesn't have to pay taxes. But donations to it are not necessarily tax-deductible. You can ask to see a copy of a charity's tax-exemption paperwork and some proof that deductions are tax-deductible.

We at the Fool also strive to be innovative in our giving. That's why we started a huge online community charity drive a full decade ago, and we're still going strong. You're welcome to stop by our annual Foolanthropy charity drive to meet some fascinating charities. Together we're raising money for some very worthwhile causes, and we'd love for you to join us.