I want to donate money to a charitable organization. How do I know what charity to contribute to?
Your donations to a charity can be of great assistance to people in desperate conditions. However, it is difficult to know whether or not a charitable organization is reputable and will put your money to good use. Following are some suggestions to help you decide which organization to give to.
Give to an established charity.
Make sure the organization you choose to donate to has been around for some time and has dealt with this type of disaster before. New organizations that are created immediately after a disaster may have difficulties until they are up and running. Check to see if the group you are giving to is a registered public charity with a 501(c)(3) status. Pay attention to charities that have names similar to well-established organizations - they may be phony.
Designate your gift.
When you donate money to a charity, you may often either designate
your gift to go to a particular project or allow the charity to
use the donation as they see fit. If you feel uncomfortable allowing
the charity to decide, or you want your money to go to a specific
purpose, make your wishes clear. Give directly to the charity instead
of to a solicitor who may keep some of the funds to cover solicitation
Avoid telemarketers and verify information.
It is difficult to evaluate a company when a telemarketer is pressuring you to give funds over the phone. If you are interested, ask the telemarketer to send you written information and avoid giving account or credit card information over the phone. Ask for identification if someone approaches you in person. If someone says he or she is collecting funds for a particular charity, call the organization to verify the information.
Do not send or give cash.
Always donate funds with a check or credit card. Include the
charity’s full name on your check. This will provide you with more
protection and a better record of your transaction.
Research and follow up.
Ask questions, request information and follow up on your donations
to see how they were used. Do a Web search on the company you are
thinking about donating to or ask friends and family if they know
anything about the company. You have the right to know how your
money is being used. Use one of the following Web sites to check
out your charity:
http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96136,00.html (to verify a charity's tax exempt status)
http://www.nasconet.org (to find your state’s charity regulator)
If you feel you have dealt with an organization that is not using
your funds properly, contact the Missouri Attorney General
http://ago.mo.gov/, any local consumer
protection groups in your area, or the Federal Trade Commission
http://www.ftc.gov/ to file a
Written by Suzi McGarvey, extension associate, University
of Missouri Extension
Reviewed by Brenda Procter, state specialist, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension
Last update: Tuesday, January 19, 2010