A Season of Giving
We are fast approaching the so-called “season of giving,” but the fact is that many of us make giving a regular part of our lives year round. Whether its tithing to our church, donating to a cause on a regular basis, or giving variously as needs arise, giving from our own abundance to help and support causes we believe in is a praiseworthy use of our assets. Much good is accomplished through philanthropic funds and many important service organizations depend on our giving.
One question that is often considered before making a donation, however, is this: “How will my money really be used?” We are willing to give – more than willing, really – but we want our money to make a difference, whether its a four figure gift or only $10 a month.
This inclination to have our money used well is a wise one and should not be ignored. Beyond the usual questions about efficiency and what percentage of raised funds are used up in fundraisers and salaries, a donor needs to make sure that the charity he or she is considering is…well, really a charity at all.
Charity fraud is a real issue, in part because of the sheer number of dollars given each year. There are lots of unscrupulous individuals eager to get a piece of that generous pie, and they have no intention of using it charitably.
So, what should you do? First, don’t stop giving. The giving is the good part; you just want to make sure the money goes where it is needed. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you have the impact you intend:
- Don’t ever be rushed into making a donation. Pressure, fear, and hurry are not tactics that legitimate charities should use to encourage your donation. You always have time to check a charity out, and if a phone fundraiser or other solicitor tries to push you into a quick decision, that’s a very bad sign. Take their information and check out their charity for yourself (more on this below).
One important reason for this – among others – is that many fraudulent or disreputable charities will purposefully name themselves something similar to a well known charity. For example: The Make a Wish Foundation has great name recognition. A fraudulent charity out to make a buck might call themselves the Making Wishes Foundation or the Children’s Wish Foundation. In a pinch, a donor might not notice the slight differences and when pressed to give may make an unfortunate mistake.
So do a bit of research.
Which leads us to number 2. There are several very helpful sites you can visit to help check out a specific charity and be sure it is what you think it is:
In addition to these sites, Google the charity’s name with keywords like “scam,” “review,” or “compliant.” If such a search turns up red flags, it may be a good idea to give elsewhere. You can also check out a charity’s own website and look for the following:
- Does it give detailed information on how money is used? On what percentage of donations actually go directly to the cause (rather than for administrative costs, fundraising, etc.)?
- Does it have a physical address, rather than just an email contact? Fraudulent websites are easy to set up, whereas a physical address lends some credibility.
- Is the information up to date? A website that hasn’t been updated for a long time might mean that things have changed, including a charity’s mission or programs. It may not even be in existence anymore.
- Do they allow you to give via credit card or check? Never donate by money transfer or gift card.
Finally, number 3: Want to give via text? Many legitimate organizations accept this method of donating, but please remember that the same cautions mentioned above apply. Don’t give until you’ve verified what the charity is and where the money goes.
You can find more detailed giving tips at the Federal Trade Commission’s website here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity
Then: go for it! It truly is better to give than to receive.