The Lowell Sun: Today, more than ever, charitable institutions stand to benefit as the first wave of the baby boomers reaches the stage where they're able to make significant charitable gifts. If you're like many Americans, you too may have considered donating to charity. And though writing a check at year-end is one of the most common ways to give, planned giving may be more effective.

What is planned giving? Planned giving is the process of thinking strategically about charitable giving to maximize the personal, financial and tax benefits of your gifts. For example, you may need to receive income in exchange for the assets you donate, or you may want to be involved in deciding how your gift is spent — things that typically can't be done with standard checkbook giving.