North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Give wisely this holiday season


by Attorney General Roy Cooper
Once again, many people find themselves in need this holiday season, and many of us want to help.  Making a donation to charity can be an important part of the holidays and a great way to give back.
Unfortunately, scammers posing as charities will try to take advantage of hard times and abuse your generosity.  They may claim they’re collecting for a worthy cause, such as help for hungry families in your community or for those affected by the recent typhoon in the Philippines, but then pocket your money instead.
Before you give, learn where your money will go and how it will be used.  Many North Carolinians are surprised to learn that some professional fundraisers keep up to 90 percent of the money they collect on behalf of a charity. Under North Carolina law, you have a right to ask what percentage of your donation will actually go to the charity and the fundraiser must tell you.
To make sure your donation will do the most good:

  • Decide what causes matter to you. Think about whether you want to help programs in your local area, support national charities, or help people overseas.
  • Give to someone whose work you know.  If you’ve helped as a volunteer, seen the organization’s work first hand or checked out its track record, you’ll have a better sense of how it operates and how your donation will help.
  • Watch out for telemarketing pleas.  Think carefully before giving to telemarketers who call on behalf of non-profits, since a large chunk of your gift may go to the for-profit telemarketer.  For example, if you wish to support your local police, firefighters or schools, call to ask how you can donate directly to them instead.
  • Ask how the charity plans to spend your money.  Get written information about the percentage of your donation that will benefit actual programs.  If the charity isn’t willing to give you that information, don’t give them a contribution.
  • Know how to spot fraud.  Fundraisers who refuse to answer your questions, offer to pick up your donation or pressure you for a credit card number are usually up to no good.  If you suspect fraud, let my office know by filling out a complaint form online or calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.  Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who contacts you.
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited emails, text messages and social networking posts asking you to donate.  You have no way of verifying how your money would really be used.  The messages may include links to copycat web sites of legitimate charities to try to trick you.
  • Get the tax facts.  Not all contributions to non‑profits are tax deductible.  For example, small businesses are often asked to place ads in publications as a way to help worthy causes—but these magazines may be published by for‑profit publishers.  Check it out before you give. It’s also a good idea to give by credit card or check instead of cash so you have a record of your donation.
  • Give of your time, too.  Many local non-profits and charities need volunteers as well as donations.  Even if your budget is extra tight this year, you can still donate your time and talents.