The holidays are a season of giving – not just to family and friends, but to charitable organizations as well. In fact, in 2015 charities received around a third of their annual donations in December, according to BBB Accredited Charity The Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index. Giving Tuesday falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and was established to remind consumers of the importance of giving back amidst the shopping frenzy of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
Holiday donations can make a big impact, and it’s easier than you think to get involved. However, it’s also important to be aware that fraudsters may try to take advantage of those in the holiday giving spirit. More than 200 charity scams have already been reported to BBB Scam Tracker so far in 2016.
Charitable giving should always be rewarding, so keep these tips from your BBB in mind to maximize your impact this holiday season:
- Before doing anything, look up the charity at give.org. BBB Wise Giving Alliance (WGA) helps donors make more well-informed giving decisions and promotes high standards of conduct among charities. They evaluate charities against comprehensive Standards for Charity Accountability, and accredit those who meet all 20. When you look up an organization at give.org, you can see exactly where your donation goes – whether it be to programs, salaries, overhead costs, fundraising, etc. If you want to ensure your money is going to research rather than education or awareness (or any specific use), you can find these details at give.org. Although participation is voluntary, charities that don’t disclose any of the requested information to BBB WGA should raise a critical red flag for donors.
- Be careful if a charity solicits you for donations. If you’re contacted out of the blue by phone or email about donating to an organization, be wary. It’s possible that the charity doesn’t actually exist, and is using a fake but legitimate sounding name and spoofing the Caller ID to create a false sense of security. Even if the organization is legitimate, you may not want to give them your money. BBB has warned in the past about charities that use donations mainly for fundraisers’ fees, salaries, and other administrative costs. So if a charity is asking for an on-the-spot donation outside of your local supermarket, don’t succumb to pressure or emotional appeals. Check out the charity online at give.org and if you still want to donate, do so directly. If you believe you’ve been contacted by a fraudulent charity, report it to BBB Scam Tracker.
- General donation tips. When charities seek support for the same cause, their names are often similar. Before you give, be sure you have the exact name of the charity to avoid a case of mistaken identity. Don’t use cash, and if you donate by check, make sure it’s made out to the organization, not the person soliciting donations. Make sure to keep records of your donations. This includes receipts, canceled checks, and bank statements; keeping these documents will allow you to document your charitable giving at tax time. Although the value of your time as a volunteer is not deductible, out-of-pocket expenses (including transportation costs) directly related to your volunteer service to a charity can be. Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs – to be safe, find out this information for yourself at give.org and donate directly.
Unfortunately, you can’t automatically trust an organization just because it claims to be charitable. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so follow this guide to ensure you don’t regret your charitable donations this holiday season.