JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – With the clock now racing toward the end of the year, the rush is on to make those last-minute charitable donations before midnight on December 31, but experts urge Missourians to do their homework to maximize year-end contributions. In order to receive a tax deduction, donations must be made to legitimate, registered charities, and according to Joanne Reisser, vice president for development at Charity Navigator, it’s up to donors to do the research.

“Look for more than just storytelling: look for real evidence of results, perhaps a number of people served,” she stressed. “That’s better than just saying we save lives, period. ”

Reisser said she recommends looking at the organization’s website, reading their fundraising appeals, and searching online for financial information.

When it comes to donating goods such as household items and clothing, Reisser said good record-keeping is essential, including a written acknowledgement from the charity for any donation worth $250 or more.

“Charities really are not allowed to value a donation,” she noted. “It’s up to donors to value what it is that they’re donating.”

Only taxpayers who itemize using IRS form 1040 can claim deductions for charitable donations.