Giving to charity, regardless of whether you get a charitable deduction, should not be viewed as a pointless exercise regardless of salary level. Give to a
charity if you wish to support its mission (feed the poor, heal the sick,
protect the environment, etc); don't if you do not.
Turning to your point, you get a specific deduction for a charitable contribution if you itemize your deductions on your Federal tax return.
There can be some
limitations on this for extraordinarily generous philanthropists but this does
not seem relevant here. You are also entitled to not itemize your deductions but simply claim the Standard Deduction for your filing status (Single)
if you choose to do so. TurboTax is set up to compare the Standard Deduction
with the total of itemized deductions that you have entered into TurboTax, and use
the larger of the two numbers automatically as your Deduction (because doing
so reduces your overall tax due), but it does provide you
with the opportunity to refuse to use the Standard Deduction
and instead use the sum-total of your itemized deductions even though
this will cause you to pay more income tax. If you used TurboTax's
step-by-step entry of data and answering of questions methodology,
it probably told you that it was using the Standard Deduction because
your itemized deductions totaled something smaller, and asking you
to specifically choose the "Use Itemized Deductions even though
they are less than the Standard Deductions" if you wished to do so.
Check your Federal tax return from last year. If you filed Schedule A
with your 2011 return, you probably got to deduct your charitable
contributions explicitly. If you
didn't file Schedule A, you used the Standard Deduction and so did get
to deduct more than what you could have deducted as itemized deductions
(including any charitable contributions you made last year) but your
charitable contributions have
not been shown explicitly as having been deducted on your tax return.
This year is likely to be the same unless you bought a house/condo
and are making mortgage payments, paid lots of state income tax with your
PA income tax return in April 2012, etc., all of which activities
lead to increased Itemized Deductions and improve your chances of
having the sum total exceed the Standard Deduction.