Your heart might be in the right place, but is your money?
There’s no question: Americans can be generous.
According to the Giving USA Foundation’s 2017 annual report, Americans gave charitable donations in excess of $390 billion in 2016 and that giving was driven by a rise in donations from individuals. People, on their own, donated nearly 4 percent more in 2016 than in 2015. Religion, education, human services, foundations, and health were the top five charitable sectors.
Those charitable donations always skyrocket at the end of the year as people are in a giving mood or want to take advantage of the tax benefits. About 30 percent of annual giving happens in December.
But, before you write a check or make a pledge to a group that called you out of the blue, you need to plan your charitable donations. Plenty of con artists are out there, ready to take advantage of your generous spirit and checkbook.
Here are 5 resources to help you plan your charitable donations and make sure your money is going to those who need it.
National Association of State Charity Officials
This national organization includes representatives from the offices in each state that are charged with overseeing charitable organizations and charitable solicitation in the United States. Rules vary, but each state has registration and filing requirements for groups that seek money or conduct charitable activities. This group can verify that the charity that you may be interested in supporting meets the letter of the law.
Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance
Part of the well known Better Business Bureau, the Wise Giving Alliance aims to help you “donate with peace of mind.” The group tracks a nonprofit’s leadership, effectiveness, finances and more. You can search for charities by name to get more details about whether they deserve your hard earned money.
Said to be “your guide to intelligent giving,” Charity Navigator features “objective ratings to find charities you can support and trust.” Here, you can search by the charity name or even keywords if you want to help a particular cause to find worthy groups that need support. The website’s Giving Basket tool also makes it easier to manage donations, get tax receipts and more.
The American Institute of Philanthropy founded CharityWatch 25 years ago. The website works to expose nonprofit abuses, but also guides givers toward charities that are using charitable donations efficiently and for good. You can type in the charity that you want to evaluate or search for charities by category.
Said to be the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations, GuideStar provides deep looks into charities so you can ensure your money is going where it’s really needed. It includes access to information about more than 1.8 million IRS-recognized tax-exempt organizations, thousands of faith-based groups that don’t have to register with the IRS and much more.
During this season of giving, it’s critical we all stay on our toes. Scam artists are out there, and so many causes need our help. Don’t fall for the fraudsters’ deceptions. Do your homework so that you can give with confidence.
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