Whether it’s for hurricane relief, holiday shopping sprees for needy children, or medical research, it’s important to know where your charitable donation dollar is going and how it will be spent.
When approached for a donation, whether it’s by telephone, mail or in person, take your time and refuse to be rushed. Check the name of the organization that asked for a donation. Many charities have names that sound alike.
Call the company directly to ask for information. Ask how much of the donation goes to those in need — and get it in writing. A legitimate charity will provide you with literature that tells how much of each dollar actually goes to the intended cause and how much goes to administration and fundraising. Also ask if your donation is tax deductible.
If you decide to make a donation, don’t donate online. While scam-watch organizations instruct Internet users on how to stay safe when making an online donation, there is really only one way to keep your personal information secure: Don’t make charitable donations online. Write a check instead. The check is also your receipt for the Internal Revenue Service when you do your taxes. Many charities won’t provide a receipt unless you donate above a certain amount.
Keep in mind that if you respond to a mail solicitation for a charity, you will receive more requests for donations. It’s as simple as that. It’s likely that your name will be sold to other charities, and the original charity will make money on you twice — once from your donation and once from the fee it gets from selling your name.
(If you’re buried under an avalanche of charitable requests in the mail, contact Mail Preference Service and ask to have your name taken off mail lists: DMA, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008 or 1-212-768-7277.)
Instead of responding to pleas for donations, work backward. Look at your budget and establish how much you can donate to charity in general. Think about what causes are important to you. Then seek out an appropriate charity for your donation.
Charity Navigator rates charities and tracks how each dollar is spent. Some charities are better than others at keeping the fundraising and administrative costs low, leaving more for the intended cause. ( www.charitynavigator.org or 1-201-818-1288)
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