Giving is always in style! But for many people, holiday giving is a time for religious, spiritual, or moral reflection. It is their way of saying thanks for a great year they experienced by donating to the less fortunate. Did you know? The average American household charitable donation is $2,974. $265 billion, or 71 percent, of the 2015 charitable donations were given by individuals, according to Giving USA. These numbers reflect how important giving is for many people. That is why it is even more important to give wisely, so the right people benefit through the donations.
Through our willingness to donate, we might not always take the time to research the right charity to donate. So if you are considering donating to a charity, find out as much as you can about the organization and try to avoid the tricks and traps that people use to take advantage of your generosity. Here are some helpful tips to consider before you make your holiday giving contributions.
- Once you decide on a charity, ask for detailed information about the charity including names, addresses, telephone numbers and website details.
- Get the exact name of the organization or the name of the DBA (Doing Business As), and see if it is blacklisted or has any complaints on it. This is one way to learn about the charity’s reputation.
- Find out if the charity is registered in your state by contacting National Association of State Charity Officials.
- Check to see if the charity is listed on the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance or Charity Navigator or GuideStar.
- Make an annual donation plan and keep a record of all your donations. This will help you claim your federal tax deduction, should you wish to do so.
- Know the difference between ‘tax exempt’ and ‘tax deductible’ status. Tax exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.
- Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity unless you have researched or known them in person.
- Never provide your credit card or check card number until you have thoroughly researched the charity.
- Current events and natural disasters prompt a number of charities to spring up overnight. Some of them might be genuinely helping, but there are a lot of them that are scams and don’t have the infrastructure to pass the donations to the affected people.
- If you think you’ve been a victim of a charity scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Your complaints will help detect patterns of scams and will lead to further investigations.
For many people, the holidays are synonymous with giving. It brings them comfort and joy to know that they are able to make a difference in the life of someone who deserves it. To make this experience count and to continue the tradition of giving safely, we need to take the time to do our research and make wise choices about choosing the right cause and charity to donate.