However, my doubting nature is not without merit. You do want to ensure your hard-earned dollars go to a righteous cause, correct?
Folks asking for money are probably 99% legit, but how do you avoid handing over your pin money to the evil one percent? In other words, how do you tell if a charity is legit?
Here are some guidelines:
· Typically, don’t give money to any organization unless you’ve given money to the organization before OR without doing your research.
· If the organization is new and you feel the cause is worthy, do your research before opening your purse. Getting the real scoop is fairly easy. The Better Business Bureau runs a site called the Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/us/Wise-Giving/) that validates worthy charities. Other useful websites include Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) and GuideStar (www.GuideStar.org). These sites not only provide a list of legitimate charities, but also provide guidelines about how much of your donation is actually going to the cause.
· If you get a phone call on behalf of a charity, request printed material via snail mail. You’ll be surprised at how few callers actually follow-through.
· If you get an email, never, ever click on a link. According to my friends in Information Security, almost all requests for email donations are bogus. If the charity is legit (the Red Cross for example), there will be a website (type in the URL yourself) and you can donate without the risk of losing your money AND your computer.
· Never provide a credit card number or bank account by phone unless you initiate the call. Even then, be wary.
· Don’t be enticed by emotional appeals. While “giving” makes us feel good, it is a business. Give based on facts, not carefully crafted images that tug at your purse strings.
· And remember, “TAX EXEMPT” doesn’t always mean “TAX DEDUCTIBLE.”
· Likewise, you can only deduct if you itemize deductions.
With over two million nonprofit organizations in the US, competition for your money is intense. Be skeptical, but don’t curb your zeal to donate. Give and give generously—just make sure your money is indeed helping the worthy.