Look over the insights below taking the time to check off key questions that should be answered as you decide how your worthy and kind donation(s) benefit the targeted individuals and quality organizations you wish to assist.
- Start by requesting detailed information on the charity, including name, address, and telephone number.
- Get the full legal name of the charitable organization and then perform some quality research. its as easy as beginning with searching the name of the organization online. Keep an eye out for trigger words attached to the information you pull up like “complaint(s)” or “scam”. this is a straight forward process to learn about a charity reputation.
- Get on the phone and call the charity directly. ask about solicitation examples you found and confirm your selected organization is aware of the advertising you found and make sure it has authorizes the use of its name. listen carefully and note that anyone on the organization’s development staff should be able to assist you with such requests.
- Confirm the charity or fundraiser in question is properly registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.
- Confirm trustworthiness of each charity you wish to learn more about by contacting the top rating and watch sites including the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
- when contacted by a fundraiser first ask if they are a paid fundraiser. If they are, ask:
- The exact name of the charity organization they claim to represent
- The precise percentage of your donation that will actually go to the charity
- the specific dollar amount that will go to the actual cause you choose
- Finally be sure to find out how much of your donation will go to the fundraiser?
- Keep clear and detailed records of your donations including those you spoke with and when.
- Establish a personal annual donation plan. This help keep things organized and acts as a great reference point as you focus on the finalists for the charities you choose to donate to
- Check with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) webpage and find out the organizations that are eligible to take tax deductible contributions.
- Learn the difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” Tax exempt simply defines an organization as one that does not have to pay taxes. Tax deductible on the other hand refers to the fact that you may deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.
- Never, never send in "cash" donations. for obvious reasons cash is not a secure means of transferring any money. and for you personal peace of mind and tax purposes, pay by check. and make sure the check is always made payable to the charity . using your credit card is another option that creates a secure trail of your donation .
- Never wire money to someone "claiming" to be a charity. This is one preferred method for scammers who will many times request donations to be wired . Wiring your personal funds is like sending cash: once you send it, poof its gone and you can’t get it back.
- Never provide your credit or check card number, bank account number or any personal information unless you’ve thoroughly researched the charity and are very comfortable that they are legitimate. even then be very careful.
- Be wary of charities popping out of the blue especially those riding the wave of current events and natural disasters. the best charities have stood the test of time and even if a new charity meets your criteria as legitimate, there's a good chance they just don’t have the infrastructure to actually get the donations to the affected area or people. These types of charities may be well meaning but take the time to find a charity with a reputable history . There should be options in terms of organizations that can get your donation to the people that need it in times of crisis.
- If a donation request comes from a group claiming to help your local community (for example, local police or firefighters), first you must double check and contact the local agency and verify that they know of the group and are in fact getting financial support.
Scott Davis is a former member of the NFL and the Los Angeles Raiders