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Biggest Bang for the Buck in Charitable Contributions

Summary:
Dec. 30, 2017 — Charitable contributions postmarked by year-end (or credit-card-charged online)  are tax deductible. Next year probably not.  So I have tripled my (modest) usual year-end contributions. I did it mostly by adding GiveWell, a smart outfit I originally found out about from reading Nick Kristof’s NYT column.  They evaluate select charities carefully.  They currently giving top priority to two:  Against Malaria Foundation and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.  Givewell seems very clear-thinking, evidence-based, and analytical about how to do the most good for a given amount of money.  Appealing to an economist. Am I the only one who thinks it makes sense to give more in years when  the contribution is tax-deductible than in years when it is not?   Obviously saving on taxes

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Dec. 30, 2017 — Charitable contributions postmarked by year-end (or credit-card-charged online)  are tax deductible. Next year probably not.  So I have tripled my (modest) usual year-end contributions.

I did it mostly by adding GiveWell, a smart outfit I originally found out about from reading Nick Kristof’s NYT column.  They evaluate select charities carefully.  They currently giving top priority to two:  Against Malaria Foundation and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.  Givewell seems very clear-thinking, evidence-based, and analytical about how to do the most good for a given amount of money.  Appealing to an economist.

Am I the only one who thinks it makes sense to give more in years when  the contribution is tax-deductible than in years when it is not?   Obviously saving on taxes is not the primary motivation.  But why not get the biggest bang for the buck?

(Having said that… if you miss the year-end deadline for contributions or you don’t itemize deductions in the first place, check them out anyway!)

Jeffrey Frankel
Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, previously served as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. He directs the Program in International Finance and Macroeconomics at the US National Bureau of Economic Research, where he is a member of the Business Cycle Dating Committee, the official US arbiter of recession and recovery.

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