Giving Tuesday is a fantastic way to give back to causes you care about most. Some people donate their time and talents, while others may choose to give monetarily. Regardless of the contribution you’re able to make, you’re sure to have a big impact on a noble cause. But how can you determine whether a cause really is noble? Here are five simple ways to ensure you don’t fall victim to a charity scam.
1. Do Your Research
It may be tempting to blindly trust any and all charities. After all, you’d hope they have everyone’s best interests in mind. But it’s important to remember that many charities also function like businesses, and not all charity structures are created equal. When choosing a charity to give to, it’s important to make sure the charity you choose to give to which allocates their funds in a way that you agree with.
There are many sources out there that will help you determine whether a charity is reputable. Many of these sources even break down how donations given to charities are allocated and give an overall grade for trustworthiness. Websites like Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, and the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance work to provide philanthropists with the most reliable information about their chosen charities.
It’s also a good idea to use an online search engine like Google to see what others have to say about the charity. Try searching the term “[name of charity] scam,” plugging in the name of your chosen charity, and see what comes up. Keep in mind that not all bad reviews are founded, but if you begin to see a pattern in scam reports, you should think twice about giving to the organization.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with giving generously, but there’s also nothing wrong with informed giving. Doing your research can help you ensure that your dollars go toward the causes you care most about.
2. Ask Trusted Sources about Their Experiences
There’s nothing better than personal recommendations, so if you’re looking to donate your time and talents to an unfamiliar organization, talk with friends, family, and co-workers who have also volunteered with the organization. They can give you insights about what you’re likely to experience with the charity. They may also give suggestions of other charities with which you’d enjoy volunteering.
3. Go to the Source
If, after doing all this background research, you still have questions about how the charity allocates funds, what type of work they do, or even basic information like where they’re located, there’s nothing wrong with going straight to the source! Call, e-mail, or reach out on social media to ask them your questions. Reputable charities will be more than happy to provide you with detailed answers because they’re proud of what they do, and want to share it with the world.
4. Be Aware of Red Flags
When working with a charity, there are some signs that are absolutely red flags for potentially fraudulent activities. One red flag is the use of high pressure tactics to give them money. Giving to charity is a big decision, and should be handled with care. Reputable organizations understand the level of commitment you’ll be undertaking, and will be more than happy to allow you the time and space to think it over. Another red flag is requesting that checks be made out to an individual as opposed to the charity itself. This would allow the individual to cash the check for their own personal use, and may never make it to your intended recipient – the cause you care so much about!
If a charity calls you before you’ve even expressed an interest in them, this can also be a red flag. While some charities use phone trees in order to get the word out about their cause, others may be trying to pull off a phone scam. If their cause interests you, be sure to let them know you’ll get back to them after you’ve done a little research. Make sure to verify that the charity has authorized the person that originally contacted you to collect money on their behalf, and do not give out personal information until you’ve determined whether or not the charity is trustworthy.
5. Consider a Gift-in-Kind
Some charities may not allocate their funds in a way you agree with, but that doesn’t mean they’re inherently bad. You may find the percentage of donations that go to executives and business operations to be quite high, but remember that charitable organizations require a lot of workers and resources to operate smoothly. A high overhead doesn’t mean these types charities are scams. It may just mean you’ll have to be smart with your donation in order to ensure that it goes toward the cause you care about.
Instead of giving cash donations to these types of organizations, consider giving a gift-in-kind. What is a gift in kind? Well, it’s a contribution of goods – such as clothes, medical supplies, child care items, etc. – to an organization that helps support those in need. Food banks, homeless shelters, and holiday “Giving Trees” are all good places to give a gift-in-kind.
The benefits of giving a gift-in-kind are plenty. You can recycle items you no longer need, and receive a potential tax deduction to boot, while a worthy cause can continue to operate, and the less fortunate receive much-needed and –appreciated supplies. It’s a win-win-win.
Report Any Scams You Experience
Unfortunately, some scams are incredibly hard to spot, even after you’ve done your due diligence. If you find that you’ve been a victim of a charity scam, make sure you report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This will help protect others from having the same unfortunate experience, and will ensure that the legitimate charities receive the funding they deserve.
Donate to Your Favorite Charity on Giving Tuesday or Any Day of the Year
While there are plenty of charity scams, there are also countless reputable charities you can donate to this Giving Tuesday. Don’t let the fear of a scam deter you from lending a hand to a cause you care about. Some simple research and smart giving will protect you. Just remember, while the influx of donations and volunteers on Giving Tuesday is welcomed and appreciated, sustained giving throughout the whole year will make an even greater difference.