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12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2019: MEANS Database

It’s the second day of my 12 Days of Charitable Giving for 2019. Readers have suggested deserving charities over the past few weeks, and I’ll be posting the results here. Today’s charity is MEANS (Matching Excess and Need for Stability) Database.

MEANS tackles hunger in a novel way. Too often, grocery stores and restaurants find themselves throwing out food when there is a need in nearby communities. MEANS helps divert food from the trash to local emergency feeding services.

While over 40% of food in the United States is thrown out, one in eight Americans faces food insecurity. Donating food is significantly harder than throwing it away, so thousands of people remain hungry while food fills landfills across the country.

MEANS makes it easy to match donors with those who need it. It’s internet-based with users in 49 states and the District of Columbia (you can see a map here). Users are food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and houses of worship; MEANS verifies their eligibility to receive tax-deductible donations so donors don’t have to. 

Donors are matched through MEANS to unsold food which is available to be distributed to those who need it. Users tell MEANS where they are, what they need, and how far they’re willing to travel to pick up any donations. On average, donations are claimed within an hour. MEANS has even had prepared food claimed in under three minutes.

So how can you help?

To make a one-time donation, click over to the organization’s website. For federal income tax purposes, if you plan to claim a deduction for a cash contribution, you’ll want to keep a record of the donation regardless of the amount. Ideally, the organization will provide a written record with the name of the charity, date, and amount of the contribution.

You can also sign up to donate food. When it comes to donations of food, one concern is liability for the donor. As MEANS explains, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (the Emerson Act) provides federal protection for food donors who donate to verified nonprofits. MEANS confirms that anyone claiming items via MEANS Database is a qualifying nonprofit under the Emerson Act, protecting donors. 

Do your homework. 

As always, you want to make sure that your donation is going to a qualified charitable organization. A search using the IRS’ new Exempt Organizations Select Check reveals that MEANS Database is on the list.

To find out more about the work of the organization, check out their website, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter or Instagram.

I often suggest checking out third-party sites like Charity Navigator for more information about charitable organizations, including evaluations and access to tax forms and other financials. MEANS Database is not ranked on Charity Navigator because it has less than $1 million in annual revenue (you can find out how to evaluate an unrated charity here).

Remember: Readers nominate their favorite charities to the 12 Days of Charitable Giving, and in most cases, I can’t personally vouch for the organizations. So be generous but be smart: Do your homework.

For more on making charitable donations, click here.

To check out other charities in the series: 

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