According to the Giving USA Foundation, charitable contributions total hundreds of billions of dollars annually and 75 percent of those donations come from individuals. Charities also rely heavily on donations made during the holiday season. In fact, holiday giving funds most charity’s activities throughout the year.
So how is the best way to decipher all the appeals? It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and forget to use your head as well as your heart when making that donation. Taking time to check out the organization fully will ensure your donation is used for the cause you intended and also tell you whether your contribution is tax deductible.
While the charity has the responsibility to apply contributions to their cause, among other things; a donor is responsible for verifying the organization is a cause they want to support, a true charitable organization, and an organization that does not use pressure as a means to secure donations
So, before you write a check, click to donate or even do a little mobile giving via a text donation, BBB offers the following tips to help you decide.
A Cause You Can Support
- Ask the charity to provide detailed written information about its programs and finances. Charities with nothing to hide will welcome your interest.
- Watch out for statements such as “100% of contributions support programs”. Charities have administrative costs and other expenses.
- Ask what type of in-kind contributions the charity prefers.
A True Charity
- Don’t be fooled by sound alike names or names made to sound impressive.
- Ask if your contribution is tax deductible and confirm with the charity.
- View publication 78 on the IRS website, www.irs.gov, to verify a charity’s tax status.
- Check with the appropriate state agency to verify the charity is registered to solicit in your state. In Texas, this is the Office of the Attorney General.
- Visit www.bbb.org/charity to find out whether a national charity meets the 20 BBB standards for charity accountability that address charity governance, finances, fund raising, donor privacy, and other accountability issues.
- Do not be pressured to give money on the spot. The charity that needs your money today will welcome it when you’re ready to give.
- Do not give cash. Write out a check to the charity's full official name, not to the individual collecting the donation.
- Ask questions and don’t give until you’re satisfied with the answer.
- Don’t pay for unordered merchandise unless you want to and you’ve checked out the charity as described herein.
Always get a report from the BBB, materials from the charity and information from state agencies before giving, even if you think you know the name or recognize the charity. Be careful of emotional appeals. While they may bring tears to your eyes, they may tell you nothing about how the charity will use your donation. Appeals should clearly identify the charity's program activities.