The Season For Giving

sally struthers feed the childrenA lot of us like to give to charities throughout the year, and especially during the Holidays.  But how do you know if the charity you want to give to is using your money in the way you want them to, and is an actual legit charity.

Last year, when I had money, I gave to each of the charities via Cake WrecksFirst Giving Page.  She is doing it again this year and I think it’s a great way for the site to use its internet fame for the larger good.  They are all really great charities, she has done the foot work and I like seeing the donations add up to the goal.  So I really recommend that.

If you’re interested in looking for a charity on your own because you have a cause close to your heart, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. You want the money to go to the cause: A good charity has figured out a way to make sure that donations are being used for the actual charitable cause, not administrative costs.  You can request their financial reports -which should be available on the website or on request, which can tell you what percentage of funds goes where.  If for some reason a charity doesn’t make its financials public, you’re going to want to look elsewhere.

2. Make sure the charity is a non-profit -  The charity should be able to provide a copy of their form 990 that they submit to the IRS as a non-profit.

3. Do Your ResearchCharityWatch.org gives major charities a grade. You can also check with your local Better Business Bureau if the charity is smaller and local.  The BBB also rates charities, but my research tells me their standards are looser, so confirm with a second source if you want to go this route.  If you’re more financially savvy and want to invest a little more time, you can check out GuideStar.  You have to register with them to get information, and it’s free.  They don’t offer their opinion, they want you to use the research to make your own determination.

4. Use Your Head – This tip kept coming up over and over when I was doing research on this.  It’s a tough one, I think, because you’re donating to a charity because you care and it’s coming from the heart.  But in the end it’s a business transaction and it’s important to keep that in mind.  You know how sometimes you’ll get address labels from children with disabilities and it breaks your heart to think of all these children making address labels (they don’t make them) and you want to sign over your life savings?  That’s the emotional appeal and a lot of us fall for it.  But you have to use your business sense too.  That’s why even though a phone solicitor  might balk when you ask them to send something in the mail (I had a whole script for that when I used to do telemarketing fundraising) but they should do it and you shouldn’t feel bad about asking.

5. Always Get Receipts!

Enjoy giving this Holiday season.  If you do your research, your money is going to go where you think it will be most valuable and effective and you can give as generously as possible.