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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Keeping charities honest - Think, research and gather information before you donate

Why do you give? Because it feels good to give back to a cause you’re passionate about, right?

There are so many great organizations hard at work to make our world a better place.

However, there are always a few bad apples ready to ruin the joy in giving for everyone. How can you can give generously, knowing your gift will go to organization that will use it to do the most good?

Overwhelmingly, charities exist to make our world a better place. Unfortunately, there are always a few bad organizations out there to take advantage of donors’ generosity.

Spotting a fake a charity is not as hard as it sounds. With these quick tips and your detective’s hat you’ll have all the tools you need.

Gut Check

Like so many things in life, if your gut is telling you something’s fishy it probably is. You should never feel obligated to make a gift. If you’re feeling pressured in any way, step back and take the time you need to research the organization and make a decision you’re comfortable with.

A legitimate organization will always provide a means for you to give on your own time.

It is important to recognize that the vast majority of charity’s are hard at work to improve our world and address it’s challenges. It is always wise, however, to do your research before giving.

Crisis and Disaster Giving

Following a crisis or disaster, we all feel that knee-jerk reaction to give. We see people in distress and our hearts go out to them. We want to do something.

Following a disaster, be wary of organizations you haven’t heard of approaching you for a donation. These situations provide the perfect opportunity for fake charities to pop up. Before you give take a moment to do some research. Look for a reputable organization working on the ground to help those in trouble. Charity Navigator’s Hot Topics list provide timely lists of organizations serving communities in need of assistance.

Online Giving

Use common internet safety practices to protect yourself from online scams. Be smart about the email solicitations you open and respond to. Beware of requests for overseas donation. Always look for an authorized website. And be sure to donate through a secure site.

When the Phone Rings

It’s not uncommon for charities to solicit donors over the phone. If you receive one of these calls, be sure you understand who the organization and where your donation is going. Do not feel pressured to give over the phone. You can always use the call as an opportunity to ask for more information about the charity.

Tax-Exempt Status

All legitimate charitable organizations are required to register with the IRS. When they do so they are provided with a Employer Identification Number (EIN). Asking for an organization’s EIN is a great way to quickly identify a fake charity. Most fake charities will not have an EIN.

An organization may have also been given a different tax-exempt status. Only organization’s with a 501(c)(3) status are guaranteed to be fully tax-exempt. Organization’s with other statuses may be legitimate but gifts to these charities may not be tax-deductible. Always asking the organization which portion of your gift is tax-deductible before donating.

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