Cash may be king, but if you want a really big tax saver, your best bet may be a donation of appreciated property—securities, real estate, art, jewelry or antiques.
If you have owned the property more than a year, you can deduct its full fair market value and escape income tax on the appreciation. It pays to keep that property the full 12 months before giving it away: For property held one year or less, IRS only allows you to claim a deduction on the price you paid for it.
Let's say you own stock that you bought many years ago for $1,000 that is now worth $10,000, and that you intend to make a $10,000 gift to a major fundraiser for your alma mater. If you write a check for $10,000, the college gets $10,000, and you get to deduct $10,000. If instead, you give the $10,000 worth of stock, the college still gets $10,000 (it won't owe any tax on the profit when it sells the stock), you still get to deduct $10,000... and you get something more.
You eliminate the tax you'd owe if you sold the stock for $10,000. Such a sale would trigger a capital gains tax on the $9,000 of profit, and that would cost you $1,350. Making your gift with stock instead of cash saves you that $1,350. If you don't really want to part with the stock because you think it's still a good investment, give it away anyway. Then use your $10,000 of cash to buy the shares back in the open market. That way you'll only be taxed on future appreciation.