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Angela Self's Smart Cookies

Sweet charity: How to give wisely this season Add to ...

This weekend my sister and I played our own version of TLC's What Not to Wear . I took on the role of Stacy; my sister was the semi-willing participant. After filling four garbage bags with clothing to donate, she admitted it felt good knowing her old sweats and jeans would be going to people who could really use them rather than taking up space in her closet.

But donating used items is just one way to flex your charitable muscles. Offering up your skills is another way to give back. If you can update a website, publish a newsletter or organize group activities pro bono, many non-profits would likely appreciate your help.

While time, talent and secondhand togs are all wonderful ways to support a good cause, there's one contribution that's universally accepted and appreciated: money. And if your favourite charity is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (find out at www.cra-arc.gc.ca), there may be a tax receipt in it for you, too. The CRA website as well as Charityrank.ca provide details on thousands of charities that might be of interest to you, including how your contribution will be spent.

Finally, to ensure those who need it get the most bang for your buck, find out if your employer will match your charitable contribution. Many large corporations offer such programs, some even matching employee donations dollar-for-dollar. Now, that's the kind of double-dipping you can really feel good about.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the new globeinvestor.com.

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