In 2017, Americans donated $410 billion to charities, up 5 percent from 2016. Donating to charity not only helps others, it also helps you feel good about yourself and the positive impact you’re helping make. Here are three things to consider to make the most out of your charitable donations.


Do your research

Unfortunately, there are a lot of organizations that don’t actually give the money they receive to the groups they promise to help. In order to avoid getting scammed, do research into different organizations before actually donating any money. There are organizations that make the research process easier, one is Charity Navigator.


Charity Navigator serves as a charity watchdog that evaluates over 9,000 charities. They determine what percentage of donations the charity receives go towards program expenses, administrative expenses and fundraising expenses. Based on the financial breakdown, they score the charity out of 100.


Knowing where a charities money goes can help you make smarter decisions about who you choose to support. The point of donating is to help others, so making sure your money is actually going to those causes are important.


Choose what you want to donate

Many charities accept more than just money. Look for toy or coat drives in your neighborhood to get rid of gently-worn items you no longer use. Clean out your closets and consider donating all of the items you haven’t worn in a year. Homeless shelters, libraries and hospitals also often accept item donations.


Some organizations, like animal shelters, have lists of items they accept in lieu of monetary donations. Shelters and food banks accept shelf-stable food items. Or, you can volunteer your time at a soup kitchen or other organization that’s important to you.


Keep your receipts

While donating to charities is about the benefits it offers to others, there are benefits for yourself as well. There are tax deductions you can claim when you donate money to most charity. Depending on the tax bracket you’re in, you receive money back from your donation when you claim them during taxes.