Nearly everyone has donated to a charity at least once in his life. If the donation is made by check or credit card, your name is sold by that charity to every other charity that champions the same cause. Those charities sell your name to any charity willing to buy it. Soon, your mailbox contains solicitations from a half-dozen charities every day the mail runs. How can you know which charity does what it says it will do?
There are questions that should be asked before donating to a charity. You want reassurance that your money will be spent judiciously. All legitimate charities must be licensed and registered, making it easy to find and read financial reports about the organizations.
Is the charity legitimate?
The Better Business Bureau has an alphabetical list of all legitimate charities. There are people all over the world who will make up the name of a charity that sounds very much like the legitimate charity. These scams rake in hundreds of millions of dollars that were meant to go to the real charity. Never give a donation until you verify whether or not the charity is legal.
How is the money used?
Some charities raise money strictly for researching the treatment and cure of diseases. St. Judes Children’s Hospital provides treatment for childhood cancers. Everyone is treated whether they have the money to pay or not. Your donations make it possible. Other charities provide homes for orphans, shelters for homeless animals, food for the poor, medicine for children in third world countries and toys at Christmas for the needy. These are just a few examples of how a charity might use the money it collects.
What percentage of the money raised is used for advertising/soliciting, administration and programs?
A good charity that manages donated dollars wisely will hold down the cost of advertising and soliciting funds. The Salvation Army ranks at the top with just one percent of collected money spent on fundraising.
Charity Navigator is an excellent website to visit when you need to see a report on all expenses of the charity. Always check out the amount of the CEO’s salary and that of other paid employees. Their annual salaries should be in line with those of other businesses around the same size.
It is wise to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the charity and why. There may be allegations of misuse of charity funds or acts of discrimination by the charity. There would likely be complaints, if any, if the charity is lax in meeting it’s own financial obligations.
Due to tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods, there are often emergency needs that are meant by charitable donations. Most people help by donating to large charity organizations such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army. Sometimes, people are able to give through Facebook or other social sites. Verify that the money you donate is going to the right place. Always insist on a receipt, even if you will not be using it as evidence when you file taxes for the year. You can verify whether the soliciting is from the legitimate charity by visiting their home page on the internet.
There are local charities that arise out of need, usually due to medical bills, a fire in a family home, an accidental death, etc. Often, people will collect money by standing at an intersection with a sign and a pail to collect the donation. Local residents may feel comfortable giving under the circumstances, especially if they know the people for whom the money is being collected. Because giving under these circumstances must be hurried and there is no time to ask questions, leave your automobile window rolled up and simply pass by if you are not comfortable donating to the cause.
Other local and regional charities like the Girl and Boy Scouts of America, a high school band booster club, a cheerleader competition trip and others may offer a service for a donation, such as the sell of cookies, a car wash or spaghetti supper. You may want to ask what the money will be used for, how many people will benefit and who will be in charge of handling the money.
Some charities are religious in nature. The Alliance for the Defense, Jews for Jesus, Focus on the Family and Catholic charities are christian in nature. They champion the cause of Christianity by promoting Christ through personal witness, pamphlets and films. You might want to ask if the donation will benefit everyone, christian or not. Also, feel free to ask if people receiving the benefits of the charity are required to attend a specific church.
Any time you are unsure whether or not your money is going to the charity you intended, wait until you have more information before donating. Don’t fall prey to people soliciting for a charity that sounds like a national charity, but isn’t. Tell the person you need more time to check it out, then do check.
There have been people holding signs in the parking lots of large department stores or malls claiming they will work for food. Maybe one-in-one-thousand is legitimate. At any rate, law enforcement does not allow this type of soliciting. If a person is truly needy, he will apply for government assistance and get food from a local food bank. There is no need for any person in America to be begging on the street.
These are a few questions you may want answers to before donating the money you worked hard to earn. You should read the reviews on charities before giving. Just Give has a list of registered charities and their financial statements. You are the only one who decides which charity gets your gift. Make sure it is put to good use by checking the charity reports before giving.