Inspiring Reflections and Stories

Six Tips for Wise Giving

We have a wonderful tradition of charitable giving in the United States, and our charitable organizations perform life-changing work every day on our behalf.

As you think about your personal or business giving, plan to give generously – and wisely. Here are six important tips:

  1. Be an informed giver. If you don’t know much about a particular charity, ask for the charity’s annual report and review the charity’s Internal Revenue Service information returns. You can easily obtain information returns at Guidestar.
  2. Never respond to pressure. Be especially careful about pressure tactics used on the telephone. If you receive a telephone call or mail solicitation from an unknown charity that interests you, do your research.
  3. You can ask that your gift be recognized, or you can be anonymous. Most charities produce an annual donor list, and most charities provide for anonymous gifts.
  4. Keep records. Your canceled check or credit card records are usually sufficient to substantiate federal and state tax deductions. And charities are required to provide receipts for gifts of $250 and over. (Most charities provide receipts for all gifts).
  5. Know how much is tax-deductible. If you purchase tickets for an event or obtain merchandise as part of your gift, your tax deduction will be reduced by the value of the goods or entertainment you receive (unless the value is minimal). The charity should note the tax-deductible amount in the receipt or acknowledgment.
  6. Don’t forget that you can give charitable gifts other than cash. Stock or other property may often provide significant financial or tax benefits. The GCC Foundation’s Gift Policies and Tips can provide more information.

Two Early Memories

Richard G. Ensman, Jr.
Executive Director, GCC Foundation

It was just after 6:00 p.m. on a warm July evening, a few months after I arrived at Genesee Community College many years ago. I was in my office and noticed a woman walking into the outer office, looking very uncertain and perplexed. I greeted her and asked how I could help her. She told me that she desperately needed to get several pages of an appendix for a research paper photo-copied for her class that evening and didn’t know that the library (which houses copying machines) closed early during the summer. She became visibly upset and began crying. I told her I could easily copy the pages for her, and I did. Realizing that something else was bothering her, I invited her to sit down and asked if I could help her in any other way. She related a harrowing account of what had happened to her in the prior weeks:  terrible domestic abuse, her courageous decision to flee the abusive household, and her inability to find a place to live. She was living out of her car, working part-time, and struggling to get through college at GCC. The next day I passed her name along to one of our student services staff members who helped her through the crisis with the support of GCC Foundation emergency funds.

A few months later, a woman in her late 30s walked into my office, wondering if she could talk for a few moments with “someone involved with Foundation scholarships.”  I invited her to sit down, and she shared her story with me. Up to a year before, she had been living a storybook life. She had married her childhood sweetheart, and together they had created a happy and beautiful family. And then her beloved husband died suddenly, devastating her and her children. This woman had spent her life to that point as a homemaker, and had no career to fall back on and no way to support her family. She told me she was the recipient of a GCC Foundation scholarship that would help her become a nurse. She just wanted to say “thank you.”

It’s easy for me to talk about the importance of scholarships. But it’s at times like these that I can understand what scholarships often mean in the depths of the hearts of those who receive them.

Thoughts on Giving

  • Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can. — John Wesley
  • The most useful and influential people in America are those who take the deepest interest in institutions that exist for the purpose of making the world better. — Booker T. Washington
  • I was fortunate to get a scholarship when I went to Lehigh University and Princeton…. Somebody was kind enough to spend their money to educate people that they would never get to know. That’s what I think philanthropy is about. — Lee Iacocca
  • No one has ever become poor by giving. — Anne Frank
  • We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. — Winston Churchill
  • I absolutely believe in the power of tithing. My own experience is that the more I give away, the more that comes back. That is the way life works. — Ken Blanchard

Resources and Opportunities for Volunteers

Looking for a way to put your time and talent to use? Explore volunteer opportunities locally (or beyond) using these resources: