The tax code doesn’t allow a charitable contribution deductions for gifts made for a specific individual. This is true even when a qualified charity collects the donation for the individual. Donations made directly to a member of the clergy to be used for their own purposes are also not deductible. Sadly, this restriction also extends to the payment of medical or other expenses for a needy individual.
Whether or not a contribution is deductible shouldn’t be the last work in whether or not to make a contribution. Keep in mind that a portion of most donations made to charitable organizations has to be spent on overhead. When a donation is made directly to someone in need presumably 100% of the donation amount goes to helping them. That means you can often do as much good with a non-deductible contribution to an individual as you could with a gift to a church or non-profit group. Just don’t make the mistake of deducting it on your taxes.
The person who inspired this post is Wynter Przybylski, the 7-year-old daughter of a high school friends and the subject of a recent Bangor Daily News article. Wynter is battling childhood leukemia and the Pryzbylski’s have a page up seeking donations to help with her care. I’ve included a couple of links about Wynter’s story below. The donations they receive for this are not tax-deductible, but can do a lot of good!