With the Christmas season upon us, appeals from charitable
organizations will be on the rise. This is no coincidence. The holiday
season can put you in the spirit of giving and many charities hope that
you will add them to your gift list.
But Beware! This is also the time of year that many unethical groups may try to cash in on your generosity to benefit their own pocketbooks.
Charity appeals may come by mail, phone or by personal solicitation. Do not be rushed or pressured to make a decision. Any legitimate soliciting organization will need your money just as much after the holidays as before. Take the time to do your homework to make sure the charity is worthy of your donation.
BBB offers the following tips to help you make a wise giving decision:
1. Do not fall prey to high-pressured tactics. Again, any legitimate charity will allow you time to “check them out.”
2. Do seek additional facts. Request that the soliciting organization send you a copy of their most current certified audit and annual report. Even a newly established charity should be able to provide a program brochure and budget plan for collected funds.
3. Ask how much of the charity’s income is spent on actual program services as opposed to fundraising and administrative costs. Determine if the charity has or is employing a professional fundraising firm to solicit your donation. If so, ask what percentage of monies received will the for-profit firm retain for their services.
4. Do not purchase an item on behalf of a charity-such as a box of candy or tickets to a holiday show-and assume that the full price will benefit the charity. Ask questions to determine how much of your donation will actually benefit the charity’s program services.
5. Do not fall prey to fraudulent phone appeals that include chances to enter a sweepstakes, especially if the solicitor asks for a donation to claim a prize. Requiring a contribution would make the sweepstakes an illegal lottery.
6. Do not give your credit card or bank account numbers over the phone or send cash through the mail or via courier. Make all checks out to the name of the charity and not to an individual.
7. Do not be fooled by names that may sound impressive or closely resemble the name of a well-known organization. Do not give to an organization simply because “children” or any other sympathy pull is included in the name.
8. Check with BBB to see if a report is available on a local or
national charity. This can be done by calling (404) 766-0875 or by
going to our website at bbb.org.
To check on national charities, consumers should go to www.bbb.org/charity.