Can a person donate to a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in the United States, ask the organization to donate this money to a particular organization or project abroad, and still claim a charitable contribution deduction here in the U.S.?
It depends. A U.S. taxpayer may claim a charitable contribution deduction only for gifts given to U.S. charities. Therefore, if the gift is “earmarked” for a foreign organization, i.e. given on the condition that it be transferred to the foreign organization, it would not be deductible. If the “request” is one that the U.S. charity could disregard and the U.S. charity retains full control over the use of the money, it would be deductible. This is the theory on which so many “friends of” foreign organizations are able to attract deductible contributions in the U.S. And if the money is earmarked for a program that the U.S. charity operates abroad, it would still be deductible as a gift to the U.S. charity for its own program.