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McHenry County nonprofits benefit from charitable donations' year-end surge

Michael Brandt of Huntley (from left) donates to The Salvation Army while Crystal Lake firefighters Darrell Cook and Chris Bedore ring bells Saturday outside of Jewel-Osco in Crystal Lake. The Crystal Lake fire department has been volunteering with The Salvation Army for the past nine years and raises thousands of dollars for the organization each year.
Michael Brandt of Huntley (from left) donates to The Salvation Army while Crystal Lake firefighters Darrell Cook and Chris Bedore ring bells Saturday outside of Jewel-Osco in Crystal Lake. The Crystal Lake fire department has been volunteering with The Salvation Army for the past nine years and raises thousands of dollars for the organization each year.

‘The end is near for area nonprofits.

The end of the year, that is. And as many charity organizations know, the holiday season is the time to capitalize – whether it’s on the generosity brought on by this time of year, or simply on those who are motivated by another season: tax season.

“What you find at most nonprofits is once the end of the year comes about, people tend to think of giving at that time of year more than they do typically in the rest of the year,” said Steve Otten, executive director for the United Way of McHenry County. Before that, Otten led the Challenger Learning Center in Woodstock, another nonprofit.

“A lot of it has to do with tax incentives, and people trying to get it in by the end of the year,” Otten said, adding, “Folks here are pretty generous all year round with the United Way.”

Crystal Lake based financial planner Mike Piershale said his most important piece of advice is this: Don’t forget.

“It sounds really elementary,” said Piershale, president of Piershale Financial Group. “Unless there’s a compelling reason to wait until next year, and usually that’s only if you’re going to be in a higher tax bracket in 2015.

“If you know you’re giving money to charity, make sure you get it in before Dec. 31. After that, it’s too late to claim for 2014.”

Perhaps the most unforgettable campaign out there this time of year is The Salvation Army’s iconic Red Kettle campaign. Although funds last the agency throughout the year, much of their fundraising is done right now.

Locally, The Salvation Army has a goal this year of $400,000, with $150,000 targeted to come from the red kettles manned by the all-volunteer bell ringers. The remaining $250,000 is expected from in-kind donations.

“The year-end giving is so important to The Salvation Army to make sure we can continue what we do all year long,” spokeswoman Linda West said. “…The fundraising we do right now, this carries us into the next year. … We will do other fundraising throughout the year, but this is the biggest portion of what we do, and probably the most critical. If we meet our goal we know we’re going to be able to continue at the same level we did last year.”

And for all area nonprofits, be it large scale like The Salvation Army or the United Way, or any of the scores of smaller organizations both locally and beyond – any little donation goes a long way.

“There are more people in need than you can imagine,” Otten said. “... The amount of money that is out there is sliced up thinner and thinner so people have to operate on less and less.”

As for Piershale, he couldn’t say it enough. If you want to take advantage of the tax deductions this year, write it down, set an alarm, tie a string around your finger – do what you must, just don’t forget.

“The biggest problem people have, sometimes, is they just flat forget,” he said. “And they get to Jan. 1, and they can’t get that deduction. They meant to donate but, now they cant get it.”

And surely area nonprofits will thank you, Piershale.

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