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I know from experience that the charities would prefer to have a donation every year instead of 2x one year and zero the other year, but the taxpayer (OP) is in control of the timing.

There's the option that if you want to do ~$3K/year, you give $3k on Jan 1, 2011, and mail a check to them for $3K on Dec. 30 2011. Then another $3K Jan. 2013 and another $3K Dec. 2013.

IRS sees it as $6K, $0, $6K, $0 donations for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.
Charity gets to view it as $3K/year that they receive in early Jan. every year.
If the charity works that their year is same as calendar year, it still works out for them, since they won't get the check until after Jan. 1st. because the mail takes a little while.

I believe that if you have written the check and sent it to the charity it counts for that tax-year - even if they don't cash it until the next year. IIRC, it's when you have lost control of the money.
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