You’ve done well for yourself. You have a comfortable income, maybe even an exceptionally comfortable income. Did the announcement a few months back by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, inspire you to start sharing more of your own — albeit, more modest — wealth?

This time of year is actually the perfect time to start work on a giving plan. Planning allows a more thoughtful, deliberate approach to your charitable giving. You might ask yourself whether there were donations you felt coerced to make last year, or charities you wish you’d supported more. You could ask those organizations you care most about whether they prefer small, frequent donations or one large one at a particular time of year.

Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax attorney and writer for Forbes, says in this video that planning is the big takeaway from the Zuckerberg-Chan announcement. They plan to give away $45 billion in Facebook stock in the coming years. One method she explores is planned giving, which allows donors to give over a number of years.

What is the best way to select a charity? One of the best places to start is GuideStar, which has tools and research to help ensure your money is well spent. Here are GuideStar’s five simple steps to better giving:

Clarify your values. Don’t just give to the ones that ask. Do you want to go local or international?

Focus on the mission. Make sure the charity has a clear mission that’s in line with your beliefs and principles.

Get the facts. Tax-exempt charitable organizations have to be transparent about their finances. Study their websites and read their annual reports.

Verify legitimacy. GuideStar is one way to check a charity’s tax-exempt status and finances, but the IRS also has a tool for checking so you’ll know whether you can deduct your donations.

Trust your instincts. A reputable charity will answer your questions and won’t pressure you to donate.

Zuckerberg and Chan, it turns out, were not among the 50 top philanthropists in the United States last year. Want to know who was? Read this piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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