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If you have time, talent, or treasure, you can make a difference at any of hundreds of Inland Northwest nonprofit organizations doing good works.

But where to start? And how to make the biggest impact with the resources you have?

Sherry Wallis, a former food bank director who now works in STCU community relations, suggests three questions to help direct your philanthropic urges:

  1. What’s important to you? Look for organizations that align with your goals and values.
  2. Is the organization effective? Use GuideStar.org, the Better Business Bureau, official social media pages, or a personal visit to the nonprofit to research its spending and management practices.
  3. Should I volunteer, donate, or both? If you don’t have the budget to donate, then volunteer. If you don’t have the time to volunteer, then donate.

A database of volunteer opportunities is available at the Volunteer Spokane website and United Way of North Idaho, Wallis says.

Some charities provide a chart that shows what a dollar amount will buy.

“If it’s easier to give money, then do so, and do it joyfully,” Wallis says.

However, be careful your donations never exceed what your household budget can handle. Consider setting up a modest, monthly subscription-style contribution. That makes it easy on your pocketbook and more predictable for the nonprofit when planning for future expenses.

Your giving may be deductible

Donations to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization may be tax deductible, so consult your tax adviser before donating. Other, spontaneous donations may not be tax-deductible, but often are worthwhile.

“A donation to a spaghetti feed fundraiser for a beloved school coach who’s fighting cancer may not count as a valid tax write-off, but you may want to donate anyway,” Wallis says. “That’s giving from the heart.”

Go to stcumoney.org to read more.

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