Choosing a charity is a very personal experience. You want to donate to a cause that is
important to you and that needs your support. Many people choose to donate in the names of their friends or families as gifts or to say “Thank You” for something. Often, people donate in honor of a deceased friend of family member. This is a great way to help your loved one’s legacy live on, and honor their memory by supporting a cause that was near to their heart.
Whatever your motivation, it’s important that you are comfortable with the charity of your choice and that you know how your funds will be allocated once they are received.
There are a countless number of charities out there that will be happy to take your money. Some of them may seem very appealing. But it is extremely important to do your research. Unfortunately, even among charities, there are those organization out there that do not deliver what they claim. They scam people by tugging on their heart strings, offering services that are near and dear to the donator’s heart. This is why it’s extremely important to do your research first, before you give money to any online charity. Donating to an overseas charity can increase the risk. It will be difficult to verify the information found on their website or publications. There are many charity’s that operate overseas, but their headquarters are based in the United States. If you prefer to support an international charity, than this may be a good option for you. You will be able to help the cause that you most care about, while being assured that your funds are being properly used.
There are as many ways to donate as there are charities on the market. Below are listed some of the more popular ways to give to your favorite cause.
One-off or Ongoing
There are two main sub-groups of giving. You can offer a one-time payment or you can set up a regular, reoccurring payment. If you choose this option, the charity will often recommend a set amount that will then be deducted from your bank account on a monthly basis. You see this frequently when sponsoring a child or an endangered animal. In this case, the charity will often send you information on what your money is paying for so you can see the impact your donation is making on someone or something life. This gives you a sense of pride and ownership in your donation. Sometimes a charity will approach you directly for a cash donation or to participate in a fundraiser such as a raffle. This can happen on the street, over the phone or at your front door. If you’ve made a donating to a charity in the past, they will often keep your contact information for future campaigns. If you no longer wish to receive communication for that charity, simply asked to be removed from their mailing list. They should be happy to oblige.
Often companies will sponsor a charity through corporate-wide sponsorship. If this is the case, you can choose the support the charity by having donations automatically deducted from your salary on a regular basis. These donations will also give you automatic tax benefits. You would then receive an end-of-year summary, detailing your payments for your tax records. To participate in any workplace giving program, the charity must have a tax-exempt status. This will also give you the peace of mind that your charity is legitimate. Ask your employer for more information on work-place giving programs.
Bequest in Your Will
When creating a will, you can request to leave a bequest for your favorite charity. This will ensure that you can continue to support that causes that are important to you, even after you have passed, leaving the world a better place for your posterity and for many generations to come. Contact your charity of choice to discuss your plans.
Money is not the only way you can help support causes that are dear to you. Not everybody has the means to donate as they would like. You can contribute your time, or you can make a donation of goods. If you have a special skill set that could be useful, your expertise may be in high demand. Charities need help in a variety of areas, from doctors to graphic designers. You never know how your unique skill set could come in handy.
Check its Legitimacy
As mentioned above, it is extremely important to check out the legitimacy of any charity before you get involved. As much as it pains us that people would take advantage of others in this way, unfortunately, it happens every day. Here are some ways to protect yourself against being a victim of fraud.
If you are unfamiliar with the charity, or the name is vague and does not clearly describe what the charity offers, make sure to ask plenty of questions. Any legitimate charity will be happy to answer your questions and will be grateful that you took your time to thoroughly research anyone before donating. Below are some good questions to ask:
• What causes do you support?
• Where is your charity based? Country? State? City?
• What will my donation be used for?
• How much of my donation will be administrative costs?
• Are you affiliated with any other charities or organizations?
• Will my donation be tax deductible?
Even if you get answers you are satisfied with, you should still be careful. Check to see that the person you spoke with is authorized to represent the charity.
If you were approached on the street to make a donation, ask to see some identification and a copy of the charity’s pledge form. A legitimate document should contain the following:
• Full name of the organization
• Corporate registration number
• Business address
• Charity logo
You should also call the charity directly to verify their contact details. Be sure to cross check the phone number they gave you to their contact information on their website.
Use a trusted website such as Charity Navigator to help verify the validity of your charity of choice.
If you a charity contacts you by phone, do not give out your bank account or credit card information, especially not right away. They should allow you mail in a check. This will allow to you to do your research before you commit to anything.
There are also website that keep you up-to-date on the latest charity scams. Be sure to cross reference any charity before donating to make sure they are not on the scam list. Trusted websites like America’s Worst Charities can help you make an informed decision.
Donations of cash or goods are tax deductible. But to be able to claim the tax deduction, there are certain criteria that you must meet.
• You must have actually made the donation, pledges to not apply.
• Your contribution must be to a qualified tax-exempt organization. Ask the charity if they have received their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. However, churches and other religious organizations are exempt from this law
• You must be able to itemize your deductions
• Keep documentation of all your transaction. Save canceled checks, acknowledgment letters and appraisals for donated property.
Complain if you have a problem
If you have an unpleasant experience with a charity, or suspect that a charity is scamming people. Don’t keep your mouth shut, say something! You can file a complaint with The Better Business Bureau, or check with your state Department of Justice.
Donating to your favorite charity is a great thing to do. It really does make the world a better place. But be sure to do plenty of research and check the legitimacy of any charity before making a donation. Don’t let companies get away with scamming anyone in the name of a good cause!