As we enter the holiday season, many of us will consider making gifts to charity. It is estimated that nonprofits receive 40 percent of their annual donations between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
If you are thinking about giving to charity this season, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips to help ensure your gift goes to legitimate organizations and does the most good.
Beware of similar names when giving to charity
Charities seeking support for the same cause often have similar names. Before making a donation, be sure you have the exact name of the charity to avoid a case of mistaken identity.
Review the charity’s website carefully
A responsible charity should have a website that provides the following information: its mission and programs, measurable goals, and concrete descriptions of its achievements. In addition, you should be able to find information about the charity’s finances. Bear in mind that the type of work a charity does will impact its costs.
Be cautious about highly emotional appeals
Marketers sometimes exploit the holidays and create highly emotional pleas to donors. Try not to make an impulse decision based purely on emotion. Instead, do some research to verify that the charity in question is legitimate and operates ethically.
Think twice before giving to unfamiliar organizations requesting donations outside public buildings
The holidays also bring a higher number of donation requests from people standing in front malls, grocery stores, and other public property. If you are not familiar with the organization, don’t succumb to pressure to make an immediate giving decision.
When in doubt, check with state charity officials
In many states, charities must register with the office of the attorney general before soliciting donations. Checking with the appropriate office in your state is an easy way to determine whether or not an organization is legitimate. You can find this information on the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) website.
Avoid charities that do not disclose requested information to BBB
Even though participation is voluntary, charities that do not disclose any of the information requested by BBB WGA should raise a red flag. To find out if the charity you have in mind has provided requested information, visit Give.org.
Research a charity’s tax status
Do not assume that every organization claiming to do good is a tax-exempt charity. You can check an organization’s tax status with the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.
Charitable giving allows you to assist the people and organizations that have come to mean the most to you over the course of your life. It represents a thoughtful expression of your values and can ensure your legacy for generations to come. When done properly, it can also create an income stream and, if you are itemizing deductions, lower your taxes.
We welcome the opportunity to make giving to charity part of your overall estate plan. Simply contact us to discuss your particular charitable goals.