How To Make Sure Your Donations Make an Impact This Holiday Season
The holiday season is a generous time of year and what better gift than to help those who need it most by giving to charities. Giving to a charity should not be difficult. Unfortunately, it can be. Every year millions of dollars in charitable donations end up in fraudulent hands. So what can you do to make sure the gift you’re giving is ACTUALLY going to those in need?
- Do your homework. There are reputable and independent charity rating organizations you can check to verify the legitimacy of a charity and where your charitable dollars will go, including:
- Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance. The BBB Charity Seal is considered the most influential seal when considering giving decisions.
- Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator.
- Charity Watch, from the American Institute of Philanthropy, considered a charity watchdog.
- Independent Charities of Americaan independent screener of American charities.
NOTE: Many legitimate charities – especially local charities – may be too small to be tracked by these services. That doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t support small local charities. Just ask questions and get informed about the cause you want to give to first.
- Be aware of signs of a scam:
- High pressure sales tactics that press you for immediate donations
- Refusal to provide proof that your contribution is tax deductible
- Lack of details on the mission of the charity
- A name of the charity that sounds like a well-known charity, but is spelled slightly differently
- Offer of prize entries in exchange for your donation
- Protect your privacy. Do not give personal information or credit card information over the phone, by email or to door-to-door solicitors. Request the information be sent to you so you can verify the recipient’s reputation. This also coincides with giving to groups you know.
- Give your time. Volunteer! This might be the best way to give back. Give your time, your time is invaluable to you and an organization that needs assistance. Many times, the donations you can provide won’t help the organization to get the work done, but that’s where you can make a direct impact with your time. You’ll likely learn about more ways to help the organization by spending time there and have the feeling of gratitude from giving something money can’t buy.
- Review the charity’s expenses. This is a difficult one, but as a guide, efficient charitable organizations will spend less than 35 percent of their donations on expenses (such as fundraising and payroll for their staff).
- Give to groups you know. You remember the sage advice of your parents when you were young, “Don’t talk to strangers.” That same advice applies to your charitable giving – don’t give to strangers. When you know the charity you are giving to, you can have confidence in the organization and its cause.
- Do not give cash! While there are a few well-known, reputable, charities that collect via kettles around the holiday season, it is best to provide your donation via check and receive a receipt for your donation for tax purposes. Never, ever, give cash to door-to-door solicitors.
Lastly, if you have elderly family members, be certain to review these tips with them and encourage them to simply take down the information and have you contact the charity in the future. Senior citizens are easy prey for fraudsters.
Weston Wolfe and Wolfe Insurance Group give back to many local non-profits around Columbus. If you’re wondering about great local organizations like After-School All-Stars, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio or many more, give us a call and we’re happy to introduce you to some amazing local Columbus charitable organizations.
Happy Holidays from Weston Wolfe and Wolfe Insurance Group!