As Dec. 31 nears - in addition to football bowl games, holiday celebrations and the New Year - it's also a good time to think about supporting a Portland-area worthy cause and removing a chunk of money from your 2009 tax liability.

The Oregon Cultural Trust is a program that isn't as well known as it should be. It has laudable goals - including the enhancement and preservation of arts and culture in Oregon. But it also enjoys a unique tax advantage that should make it of special interest at this time of year: For every dollar contributed to the trust (up to $500 per individual), the donor gets an equal amount removed from his or her Oregon taxes - an actual tax credit, not a deduction.

That in itself is an incentive to contribute to a more vibrant and better funded arts and cultural scene throughout Oregon. But an even better reason is the immediate and needed opportunity to support valuable organizations in your own community.

It's easy to do. Before making a gift to the Cultural Trust, participants must first contribute to one or more of the 1,000 arts group statewide that are aligned with the trust. So, for example, if you give (or already have given this year) $250 to the Artists Repertory Theatre, Oregon Historical Society, Portland Art Museum, Portland State University Foundation or Portland Classical Chinese Gardens, you can also give $250 to the Oregon Cultural Trust and claim your $250 tax credit. The Trust, in turn, will be better able to make local grants and contributions to these and many other local arts organizations. In fact, thanks to the generosity of Oregonians, the trust has awarded more than $8 million in grants since 2002.

Investing in culture doesn't get any more painless than that - and the above examples are just a mere handful of the 370 Portland-based groups that qualify for such donations. The only catch is that you have to hurry. Donations must be made by midnight Dec. 31 to qualify for this year's tax returns.

Find out more information and the names of local arts and cultural groups you can assist by visiting the Web site, or by calling 503-986-0088.

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