Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, which is fitting since the holiday season tends to inspire people to reach out and give to those in need. According to Giving USA, total charitable contributions rose for the third consecutive year in 2012, an increase of about 3.5 percent. But before reaching deep into your heart or wallet this holiday season, Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (WGA) reminds consumers to think before you give.
BBB’s WGA helps donors make informed giving decisions and promotes high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. The Standards for Charity Accountability seek to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations and advance the support of philanthropy. A BBB Accredited Charity meets all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. There are more than 1,200 reports on national charities online at give.org.
Before you donate, consider this advice from BBB:
- Don’t give cash. Always make contributions by check and make your check payable to the charity, not to the individual collecting the donation. Resist pressure to give on the spot.
- Keep records of your donations. It’s important to keep documentation of all donations for tax purposes. Although your time as a volunteer is not deductible, out-of-pocket expenses directly related to your volunteer service to a charity may be deductible.
- Be wary of imitations. Don't be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization. Get the charity’s exact name and confirm they are legitimate.
- Confirm text code numbers. If you plan to donate by text message, confirm the text code number directly with the charity. Also, keep in mind that text message donations are typically not immediate. Depending on your cell phone provider, the donation may not show up on your bill for 30 to 90 days.
- Research the organization. Check give.org first to get reports on how national charities measure up to BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Confirm the organization is registered with the IRS as a 501(c) (3) and verify that the distribution of your money is going where you want it to.