For many Americans, giving to charities is almost as important during the holidays as celebrating with family. Consumers should give, but give wisely -- and do their homework before donating.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) has Charity Reviews on more than 1,000 local charities and 11,000 charities nationwide, including many national charities accredited with BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance.
Donors want to know that their money is being spent wisely. If they see a ‘clickable’ BBB Accredited Charity seal on a charity’s website or other literature, this means that the charity complies with BBB’s 20 Standards of Charity Accountability.
Mailboxes often are stuffed with charitable solicitations as well as catalogs and shopping circulars this time of year. Whether you celebrate or not, giving before Jan. 1 means your gifts will be deductible on your 2020 tax return.
While many well-run, legitimate charities are helping the community, others fail to live up to their promises to assist those in need. BBB has issued warnings about several charities that devoted more money to raising funds than helping others and, in some cases, weren’t willing to reveal how their funds were spent or the amount of assistance they offered. BBB Scam Tracker received more than 700 reports of charity scams over the last three years.
When BBB evaluates a charity, it looks beyond finances and overhead, examining a charity’s governance, effectiveness and fundraising practices against BBB’s 20 Standards of Charity Accountability. Only after a charity meets all 20 BBB standards will BBB offer it BBB Accreditation and use of BBB’s seal. Browse local BBB Accredited Charities at bbb.org.
BBB has tips that increase your confidence that your donation will be used wisely:
- If you are unfamiliar with an organization, don't hesitate to ask the charity for written information about its programs and finances.
- Don't succumb to pressure to give money on the spot. A charity that can use your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow. Watch out for appeals that bring tears to your eyes, but tell you nothing about how your donation will be used.
- When considering support for a cause-related marketing campaign, find the answers to these questions: What portion of the purchase price will benefit the charity? What is the duration of the campaign? What is the maximum or minimum total contribution? If the information is not on the item, check the organization’s website.
- Before donating used items, make sure they are in good shape to reuse. Donating junk puts an undue burden on the charity and could do more harm than good. You may want to consider selling the item and donating the proceeds to a charity.
BBB urges donors to seek professional advice if they are in doubt about the deductibility of contributions. Other helpful tips for making donations are posted on BBB’s website (bbb.org). The IRS Web site (irs.gov) has information on the deductibility of donations on tax returns.