Give wisely when you give to charity
by Attorney General Roy Cooper
As we gather with friends and family during the holidays, many of us will feel inspired to help others. Making a donation to charity can be an important part of the holidays and a great way to give back to our communities.
With the economy still struggling, even more people are in need of help this holiday season. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of hard times and try to abuse your generosity. They may claim they’re collecting donations for a worthy cause, but then pocket your money instead.
Before you give, take the time to learn where your money will go and how it will be used. On average, charities get just slightly more than 40 percent of the money collected by telemarketers on their behalf. Some telemarketers keep up to 90 percent of the take. Under North Carolina law, you have a right to ask what percentage of your donation will would benefit the charity and the telemarketer must give you that information in writing within 14 days.
For more detailed financial information about a charity, contact the Secretary of State’s office at (888) 830‑4989, or take a look at a charity’s financial statements at www.guidestar.org
. You can also find out if national charities meet the standards set by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance by visiting www.give.org
Give some thought to these tips before you give to charity:
- Decide what causes matter to you. Take some time to decide what issues matter to you before you give. Think about whether you want to help programs in your local area, to support national charities, or to help people overseas.
- Do your research. Instead of donating to someone who solicits you, research charities to find ones that are doing work you want to support. You can use sites like www.give.org, www.guidestar.org , and www.charitywatch.org to check out charities.
- 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 of responding to calls from telemarketers.
- Ask how the charity plans to spend your money. Ask for 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 a fraud. Telemarketers that 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 by calling (877)-5-NO-SCAM. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who calls you.
- Watch out for questionable websites and emails.Scammers use copycat web sites of legitimate charities to try to trick donors into giving up their money and their personal information. Beware of emails from people you don’t know asking you to give, and never follow links in suspect emails.
- 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.
- Give of your time, too. Many local non-profits and charities need volunteers as well as donations. If your budget is extra tight this year, you can still help out by donating your time and talents to help those who are less-fortunate.