Know Where Your Charity Dollars Go
Charitable donations are an excellent way to benefit a cause that is close to your heart. But with so many organizations and fundraising sites (e.g. GoFundMe) asking for your financial support, it’s imperative to take the time and find out where your money is going.
Here are a few tips from the Federal Trade Commission on how to screen the causes you support:
- Pay by check so you have a record of your contributions. Also, “know the difference between ‘tax exempt’ and ‘tax deductible.’ Tax exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.”
- Ask the charity to provide documentation on its mission and history. “Searching the name of the organization online — especially with the word ‘complaint(s)’ or ‘scam’— is one way to learn about its reputation.”
- Research the financial statements of the charity on CharityNavigator.com. Nearly every organization will have overhead costs for things like staff, web hosting and/or office space. Knowing the percentage of donations that support those overhead expenses versus the percentage that directly benefits the target audience or cause can help you make informed decisions on who you support.
- Proceed with caution when the charity “name…closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization” (e.g. America Red Cross instead of American Red Cross), “asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money” or “guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution.”