CREATIVE WAYS TO GIVE (BEYOND CASH OR VOLUNTEERING)

There are lots of options for giving besides writing a check or giving time. Here’s a roundup of suggestions. Before taking action, of course, check with your tax and financial advisers.

Give your house. Gifts of real estate cover a house, apartment building, farm, vacation home, commercial buildings and land. If you cede a fully paid mortgage to, say, your local community foundation, you can continue to live in the home for the rest of your life. Upon your death, the house passes to any charity you select. The nonprofit can then sell it and use the proceeds. Such gifts raise complex tax and legal issues, but planned giving experts at public foundations or charities would be delighted to help you work through the process.

Give by the dozen.
The vast majority of people who give to charity wait until December to make donations, partly because of the holiday spirit and to qualify for that year’s tax deduction. But you rate the same tax break by giving in January or June. And with monthly donations, you create a habit and ease the cash flow.

Give the rewards of intellectual property. If you’ve written a book or screenplay, own a patent, license a service or the like, set up a plan to donate a percentage of incoming royalties or fees.

Give collaboratively. Set up a giving circle with friends, family or colleagues to learn about philanthropy and leverage your dollars and impact. These easygoing groups forge their own rules and grant choices, often with back-office help from a community or public foundation. To learn more, check out advice from the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. If your pals live across town or around the world, consider a virtual circle using electronic tools (like Skype) to electronically collaborate in real-time.

Give art, antiques or collectibles. Like bequeathing a home, these gifts can be donated to a qualified charity and still remain in your possession during your lifetime. The gift goes to the nonprofit after you die. Check with financial pros beforehand. Congress changed the rules on such gifts in 2006 and now it’s less of tax break than it used to be.

Give with a legacy. By setting up a charitable remainder trust, with cash assets or, better yet, stock that keeps appreciating, you live on the trust’s income during your lifetime while the principal passes to a qualified charity after you die. CRTs are irrevocable, so you can’t change one after it’s established.

Give technology. More and more groups, online and off, are offering recycling outlets to donate used mobile phones, computers, peripherals, software (when you upgrade) and more. Check with your company’s human resources department, local community foundation, public schools, small-business training centers for opportunities. Or check out Secure the Call Foundation . These can be converted into 911 emergency-use mobiles and given free to, say, battered women and kids at risk.

Give mutual fund shares or appreciated securities. Besides netting a tax savings and an immediate charitable deduction for the market value of the donated assets, giving mutual fund shares that transfer to a qualified charity after you die will exempt you from any capital gains tax on the appreciation. Once again, check with advisers before proceeding.

Give part of your business. If you own limited partnership interests (rather than stock in a private family business), you can contribute them to a qualifying charity.

Give to a social venture investment fund. Dozens of nonprofit investment companies around the country work for change by lending money at very low interest rates. When you invest money, you get a return, which will vary by project and firm. For example, Boston Community Capital , a social venture capital fund, has built charter schools, health clinics, affordable housing, childcare facilities and more.

Give your life insurance policy. When you no longer need the life insurance you purchased years ago, consider assigning the policy to a charity (while still covering the annual premiums) and make the charity the beneficiary. If the policy is paid up, you receive an immediate tax deduction equal to the policy’s cash value at the time.

Everyone has something to give.

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