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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

When is a Charity NOT a Charity?

Sometimes writing sinister plots affects my everyday life.  For example, during the Holly-Jolly Season, most people see the man/woman/teen ringing a bell outside a department store and don’t think twice about dropping a dollar (or two or ten) into the pot. Me, I start imagining all sorts of nefarious things the person will do with that can of cash. Though the smiling person collecting for charity is probably legit, my mind turns the money container into a witch’s caldron… Well, you get the picture. Like I said, not good.
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.

4 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Robin,

Thanks for the great resources for checking out charities! And I agree, be skeptical but don't stop giving.

Linda Lovely said...

Robin, good advice. I always politely tell telephoners that we make all of our donations at yearend and will be glad to consider them if they'll send written information. Of course, we have to make exceptions for our relatives (especially kids) who collect money year-round for sport/school events.

Ashantay said...

Great information.

I've learned that many of the charities collecting for emergency service folks are more of a scam than a charity. Police and fire employees have access to a national fund that pays the widows/children of lost officers and firefighters. If you get a call stating someone is collecting for the police, you should probably hang up.

Thanks for reminding us to use care when donating.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for the great resources and information, Robin! many of us have no idea how to tell if a charity is legit nowadays.

This was a tremendously uselful post!