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BBB Tip of the Week

WHAT: How to give your money away: Doing good feels good to most people. Although charity giving is down due to the economy, local charities like Second Harvest, Catholic Charities of Spokane and Cancer Patient Care still need assistance. And whether your pet cause is one listed above or something different, you’re likely to get a cold call from a charity asking you for a donation.


Check with the BBB. Our website,, reports on charities as well as businesses. Our measuring stick is the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Use the Washington state Secretary of State’s office, Charities Division, to discover what happens when you give a charity your dollars. (Idaho does not have a similar office.) While Second Harvest, for example, puts 99 percent of its funds toward feeding the hungry, some charities allocate as little as 3 percent to their cause, with the rest going to fundraising and administration.

Ask the charity to send you written information, with a copy of their latest financial statement (usually an IRS 990 form) and their tax designation. Most charities are organized as a 501(c)3, meaning donations are tax-deductible. Some, especially police or firefighter organizations, may be a 501(c)19.

REMEMBER: If there is need today, there will be need tomorrow, unfortunately. Don’t be high-pressured into agreeing to donate money over the phone or give to a charity whose legitimacy you cannot verify.

BEWARE: Of sound-alike charities that mimic the name of a well-known organization, but for which there is no verifiable information.

Final thought: Dick Eppstein, the legendary CEO of the Toledo BBB, once had an elderly lady bring in two grocery bags full of charity solicitations. When the receptionist asked how one person could receive so many requests for donations, the lady shook her head, baffled. “I always write REFUSED, STOP, DO NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN, on the outside of the envelope,” she said. “Then I stick in a $5 bill and mail it off.” 

MORE INFO OR REPORT SCAMS: Visit the BBB website at Call (509)455-4200 or (800) 356-1007.

Holly Doering,

Better Business Bureau

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