When giving from the heart or from the wallet you want to trust that the organization you are giving to is legitimate and using the money in a manner you support. Your good deed should not end up involving you in a scam or under-performing association.
Here is a quick list of websites you can use to get the facts behind your nonprofit of choice – especially if the organization has approached or solicited you personally for a donation.
1. The IRS has a search option for IRS exempt status charities. Charities must register with the IRS for your donations to be tax deductible so consider this when donating money. There are some very small, local charities that do not enjoy tax-exempt status and there would be more risk involved in giving.
2. GuideStar.org was the go-to resource for verifying a nonprofits status when I worked in corporate gifting. Over a million charities are listed and have met IRS criteria for exempt status.
3. Charity Navigator is a great tool when you want to compare nonprofits as it ranks charities based on their efficiency, transperancy and accountability on a four star system.
4. The Better Business Bureau Giving Alliance gives information about charities and publishes a quarterly guide on wise giving as well as issues alerts on scams. Vetted charities are given the BBB seal to display online and in print. You can scroll through the A to Z index or search by category or name.
If you feel you may have encountered a scam:
Contact your state attorney general’s office (National Association of Attorneys General listing) as they are responsible for investigating fraud such as nonprofit scam.
Additionally, if you feel you may have been solicited by a fraud nonprofit you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. This website is a comprehensive resource on charity scams.
Precautions with phone and email solicitations:
Many scams are run through telephone solicitations and we have all seen the spam emails so what can you do to protect yourself from fraud? If the organization sounds like something you would like to give to then request printed materials from the organization. NEVER give your credit card or banking information to an organization who called you – do your research and contact them back. If something sounds off, trust that instinct and check your resources to verify the organization and report suspicious solicitations.
Make no mistake that I believe that donations are a vital part of the continuing the fight against child abuse. I just want you to see your donation go to actually helping the kids and to protect yourself from the small minority of scam artist who prey on good hearted givers.