With ever increasing cost of doing business, no funding from the government, and an escalating demand for their services, charitable organizations are staying in business by requesting bigger donations from more donors over and over again than ever before.
Donors should go about their donations strategically and require accountability of the organizations asking for their support.
Individuals contribute over 80% of the money charities in this country raise. In order to ensure that these generous givers are not deceived and help them make judicious giving decisions, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance (the Alliance) offers the following tips on charitable giving:
Do not give cash; always make contributions by check and make your check payable to the charity, not to the individual collecting the donation.
Keep records of your givings (receipts, canceled checks, and bank statements) so you can 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 are deductible.
Don’t be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization.
Check out the organization with the local charity registration office (usually a division of the state attorney general’s office) and with your Better Business Bureau.
When you are approached for a contribution of either your time oryour money, ask questions, and don’t give a donation until you’re satisfied with the answers. Charities with nothing to hide will encourage your interest. Be wary of their reluctance or inability to answer questions.
Ask for the charity’s full name and address. Demand identification from the solicitor. Ask if your contribution is tax deductible. Contributions to tax exempt organizations are not always tax deductible.
Ask if the charity is licensed by state and local authorities. Registration or licensing is required by most states and many communities. However, bear in mind that registration in and of itself does not imply that the state or local government endorses the charity.
Don’t succumb to pressure to give money on the spot or allow a “runner” to pick up a contribution; the charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.
Watch out for statements such as “all proceeds will go to the charity.” This can mean that the money left after expenses, such as the cost of written materials and fund raising efforts, will go to the charity. These expenses can make a big difference, so check carefully.
When you’re asked to buy candy, magazines, card, or tickets to a dinner or show to benefit a charity, be sure to ask what the charity’s share will be. You cannot deduct the full amount paid for any such items, as the IRS considers only the part above the fair-market value of the item to be a charitable contribution. For example, if you pay $10 for a box of candy that normally sells for $8, only $2 can be claimed as a charitable donation.
Call your local BBB if a fund raiser uses pressure tactics such as intimidation, threats, or repeated and harassing calls or visits. Such tactics violate the BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s recommended Standards for Charity Accountability.