Dec 04 2016
‘Tis the season for giving to charity, but choose wisely.
Before spreading holiday cheer, research the charities to which you wish to donate your money.
There are so many charities asking for donations these days, it can be daunting to know which one should be the recipient of your generosity. We are solicited constantly, whether it be the friendly telemarketer interrupting your dinner or nap, or while checking out at the grocery store. Who doesn’t want to help neglected children, the homeless, unwanted pets or our veterans? Whether you have the ability to donate a little or a lot, you want to make sure your money is really going towards those who need it. There are a lot of scams out there, and you want to make sure you don’t become a victim to one.
It’s sad that people take advantage of the givers, but they do. Especially the elderly. It is a shame that while you are trying to do “the right thing” and give to help those who are less fortunate than yourself, there could be a crook on the other end, taking advantage of you. This year, the Federal Trade Commission, along with law enforcement from every state across the country found four cancer charities negligent for defrauding consumers of more than $187 million. According to Consumer Reports, “…Instead of helping cancer patients, the heads of the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society allegedly funneled donations into luxury cruises, college tuition for family members and friends, gym memberships, sporting event and concert tickets, and even dating website memberships…”1*
The other sad fact is that many charities, while not fraudulent, spend more money on fundraising costs and administrative fees than on the actual programs designed to benefit the charity’s recipients who really need the money. Many charities have similar sounding names, so they can be easily confused. While you may think you are donating to one, you may be donating to something else. Lastly, there are so many charities focused on one cause. For example, there are over 45,000 organizations in the United States that address Veteran issues alone, so how do you know which one is best? 2*
Luckily, there is help out there. Several watch dog organizations are available who have done the research and have given ratings to the different charities. You can look up the charity of your choice to see how it ranks in fiscal responsibility, transparency, and what portion of donations go directly towards their programs. Consumer Reports revealed some of these groups and they include:
Charitynavigator.org This organization reviews over 8,000 organizations of all size, and allows you to see how they rate by metro area. Their easy-to-navigate lists allow you to see which are rated highest and lowest.3*
Charitywatch.org This group evaluates more than 600 charities and gives its best ratings to approximately one third of those researched.4* .
BBB Wise Giving Alliance (Give.org) To get a good rating from this alliance, organizations must spend at least 65 percent of their donations on charitable program activities. Additionally, fundraising costs can’t exceed 35 percent.5*
So if you are approached by a charity, via telephone or email, how do you know if you are being scammed? If you experience any of the following, think twice or four times before donating:
- They thank you for your previous pledge, when you never made one.
- The caller is very pushy and won’t take no for an answer.
- The caller or email asks for donations to be wired.
- The caller can’t provide any real proof of their charity…ask for their federal id number. They must have one to act as a nonprofit and ensure your donation is tax deductible.
- They can’t tell you exactly how the donations will be used. 1*
Be especially leery of requests coming via email. There is so much junk mail out there, and if you didn’t ask to receive this information, steer clear. Even if they have a legitimate or familiar looking logo, it doesn’t mean they are legitimate. Beware of heart wrenching photos like those of neglected animals or children. Before you act, refer to the websites listed above to make sure.1*
Yes, it is the time for giving. And there are so many in need. Sometimes the people that need it most are very close to you…in your community or your neighborhood. So start there, and then move outward with your giving. Don’t forget to give your time, your love and your ears to the ones you love. Giving starts at home.