Charities are seeking to capitalize on the holiday spirit by promoting "Giving Tuesday" on Dec. 2 as an opportune time to make donations.

For many Americans, giving to charities is almost as important during the holidays as celebrating with family. As a result, mailboxes often are stuffed with charitable solicitations as well as catalogs this time of year. Whether you celebrate or not, giving before Jan. 1 means that your gifts will be deductible on your 2014 tax return.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) has tips to help donors find deserving charities - and to make giving more effective as well as deductible. BBB's online Guide to BBB Accredited Charities lists more than 200 local charities who have met BBB's 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. New buttons in the guide make it easy to donate, volunteer or get involved with Accredited Charities with a click directly to the charity's website.

In addition, BBB has Charity Reviews on more than 1,000 local charities and 11,000 charities nationwide, including many national charities accredited with BBB's Wise Giving Alliance.

"Donors want to know that their money is being spent wisely," said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. "If they see a 'clickable' BBB Accredited Charity seal on a charity's website or other literature, this means that the charity complies with the BBB's 20 Standards of Charity Accountability."

When BBB evaluates a charity, it looks beyond finances and overhead, examining a charity's governance, effectiveness and fundraising practices against BBB standards. Only after a charity meets all 20 BBB standards will BBB offer it BBB Accreditation and use of the BBB seal.

BBB has tips that increase your confidence that your donation will be used wisely:

• If you are unfamiliar with an organization, don't hesitate to ask the charity for written information about its programs and finances.

• Don't succumb to pressure to give money on the spot. A charity that can use your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow. Watch out for appeals that bring tears to your eyes, but tell you nothing about how your donation will be used.

• Before making online donations, determine whether the charity's website is secure and that it has a privacy policy concerning the use of your name, email address or other personal facts. (Secure sites' addresses begin with https://.)

• When considering support for a cause-related marketing campaign, find the answers to these questions: What portion of the purchase price will benefit the charity? What is the duration of the campaign? What is the maximum or minimum total contribution? If the information is not on the item, check the organization's website.

• Before donating used items, make sure they are in good shape to reuse. Donating junk puts an undue burden on the charity and could do more harm than good. You may want to consider selling the item and donating the proceeds to a charity.

BBB urges donors to seek professional advice if they are in doubt about the deductibility of contributions. Other helpful tips for making donations are posted on BBB's website (www.bbb.org). The IRS Web site (www.irs.gov) has information on the deductibility of donations on tax returns.

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