SECURITY: How to avoid holiday charity scams
November 20, 2017
So how can you make sure your dollars are going to your preferred causes and are being spent responsibly and allocated efficiently?
- Have a giving plan. Many times, criminals can thrive because people don’t really have a system or discipline in place to manage their charitable giving. They give on an ad hoc basis, often on impulse, and with no research into the organization.
- Research your charities. This is a process called due diligence. If a charity wants your money, you are absolutely justified in investigating it. How reputable are they? How efficient are they? Does 95% or more of your donation actually make it to those who need it? Or does the charity have an unreasonable amount of overhead? How much does the executive director make? Is it reasonable for a charity of that size? One resource you can use to start investigating a charity is CharityNavigator.org.
- Determine a charitable giving budget and stick to it. You know what you can afford. Don’t go over that budget – at least not on impulse. Give with your heart – but use your head.
- Don’t give on the street. Many street collectors are scammers. You’re okay buying Girl Scout cookies from the neighborhood children in front of the supermarket. But you’re getting some good cookies for your money. Don’t put cash in some collector’s bucket without doing some due diligence.
- Get a receipt. Legitimate charities can give you a receipt, which you can use to take a tax deduction. If you take the tax deduction, you can give more. No receipt? No deal.
- Ensure the charity is a legitimate 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. To get the official IRS list, download Publication 78 from the Internal Revenue Service at IRS.gov.
- Write a check. Don’t give cash. This establishes a paper trail.
This article was originally in GICU's Fall 2017 Newsletter.