North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

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Make your gift to charity count

11/28/2016

By Attorney General Roy Cooper

During this time of year, we give thanks for our blessings and celebrate with friends and family.  In the holiday spirit of giving, many of us will choose to help those who are less fortunate by making donations to charities and worthy causes.

Unfortunately, scammers may try to take advantage of your generosity. They may claim they’re collecting for a worthy cause, such as help for families in our state still suffering from Hurricane Matthew, but instead simply pocket your money.

Before you give, learn where your money will go and how it will be used. In North Carolina many people are surprised to find out that some professional telemarketers keep up to 90 percent of the money they collect on behalf of a charity. Under North Carolina Law, you have the right to ask what percentage of your gift will actually go to the charity—and the fundraiser is required to tell you.  

To help your donation do the most good:

  • Make a plan for giving. Instead of reacting to requests to donate, decide in advance what causes you want to support. That will give you time to do your homework before you donate.
  • Do your research. Find charities that are doing good work you want to help fund. Use sites like give.org, guidestar.org, charitynavigator.org and charitywatch.org to check out charities. Contact the Secretary of State’s office at (888) 830‑4989 or http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/csl/ for detailed financial information on a charity.
  • 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. It’s always best if you initiate the donation instead of responding to a solicitation.  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. Also, be cautious about giving through crowdfunding websites, which can be abused by charity scammers.
  • 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.
 
Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff want North Carolinians to give wisely when they give to charity.  We are here to be of service when you need us, but through columns like these we hope to help consumers avoid problems from the start.
 
Note to editors: This is one in a series of columns that the Attorney General distributes to educate consumers. If you have questions, please contact us at news@ncdoj.gov.