Total charitable giving across North America exceeded $200 billion in 1999. Fraudulent use of contributions affects less than one percent of all giving. So you can almost always be assured that your generosity will go to work for legitimate causes.
But it pays to be careful.
There are several steps you can take to ensure you are contributing to a legitimate organization.
- First, read through the Donor Bill of Rights and know what you should expect of a charity when you support it. You should feel confident that you're being treated appropriately when you decide to give.
- Know the organization you want to support. The more information you have about a group, the better you'll feel about supporting it.
- Be committed to the organization you're supporting. There are over three-quarters of a million charities across North America. If you're not excited about giving to a particular charity, there's undoubtedly one that fits your views and needs.
- Take your time when deciding to give. Don't give in to high-pressure appeals. Professional fundraisers will not push you to give immediately -- their job is to build relationships with you. If a telephone or door-to-door solicitor starts using such high-pressure tactics, it's time to consider whether or not you should give to that organization.
- Request information about a charity before you give. This goes along with the above tip on knowing the organization. Sometimes charities have names that sound similar, but they not be affiliated with each other all. Legitimate organizations will provide you with information about its charitable mission and how the contribution will be used. Ask door-to-door and telephone solicitors to identify themselves and name the charity they're working for (Many laws now require them to do this.).
- Know the difference between "tax-exempt" and "tax-deductible." Some organizations may be tax-exempt, but contributions to them are not tax-deductible. Don't be confused with meaningless terms like "tax I.D. number." Many organizations have such numbers, but it has nothing to do with tax-deductibility.
- If you use the charitable deduction when determining your taxes, always ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that the contribution was in fact deductible.
- AFP encourages all individuals to give. Charities and the work they perform are the building blocks of our communities and our society. But donors always have the right to say no, regardless of the reason. Make sure your giving counts and give to an organization you are comfortable with and fully support.
Online giving through the Internet creates other concerns as well. See AFP's new e-Donor Bill of Rights!
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