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Donating anonymously

WASHINGTON—Truly anonymous giving often has a whimsical quality.

Last Christmas, for example, an automatic change counter in Pensacola, Fla., through which the Salvation Army was passing proceeds from its kettles, spat out two wedding bands and a gold tooth. A counter in Houston disgorged a South African Krugerrand—a 1-ounce, 22-karat gold coin that was, in effect, a $425 donation to the Salvation Army.

Kettle contributions may be the easiest way for a donor to meet what most faiths consider the highest standard for charitable giving: a transaction in which donor and beneficiary don't know each other.

Here are some other means:

_ Give blood. It's the perfect form of anonymous giving because blood donations are absolutely personal and unrelated to a donor's wealth.

_ Give to a church, temple or mosque's alms box. Alms boxes or their equivalents, usually located out-of-the-way to promote privacy, have been used for millennia to purify money by separating its donors from its recipients. Their locations encourage donors to recognize anonymous charity as an act of faith similar to prayer.

_ Give anonymously to a church, temple or mosque not of your faith and where you know no one.

_ Give cash to a charity. It costs the donor a charitable income-tax deduction worth as much as 30 percent of the gift, but often is the only way to maintain anonymity.

_ Say nothing to anyone about your anonymous donation. As Protestant reformer Martin Luther explained, "Giving alms in secret means that the heart is not ostentatious but is moved to contribute freely."

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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