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Must Know

Before Giving to a Charity

You want your donations to count. That’s why it’s important to ask questions whenever you’re asked to give — whether over the phone, in direct mail, or online.

Do some research before donating.
You should know, for example, exactly how much of your donation goes to the program you want to support.

 Don’t donate until you’re sure it will make a difference.
Here are some things you can do to make sure your donations get where they’ll do good — and help you avoid donating to a scam.

If you want to give to charity:
Search online for the cause you care about — like “hurricane relief” or “homeless kids” — plus phrases like “best charity” or “highly rated charity.” Once you find a specific charity you’re considering giving to, search its name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.” If you find red flags, it might be best to find another organization.

Check out the charity’s website.
Does it give information about the programs you want to support, or how it uses donations?
How much of your donation will go directly to support the programs you care about?
If you can’t find detailed

  • information about a charity’s mission and programs, be suspicious.
  • Use one of these organizations to help you research charities: BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and GuideStar.
  • See what your state’s charity regulator has to say about the charity.
  • Don’t know who that is? Look it up at nasconet.org.
  • Before you donate through an online portal that lets you choose from a list of charities, read the article Donating Through an Online Giving Portal, available at FTC.gov/Charity.
    It explains how these online giving portals work.


Organizations that can help you research charities

These organizations offer reports and ratings about how charitable organizations spend donations and how they conduct business:

The IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search tells you if your donation would be tax deductible.

You can find your state charity regulator at nasconet.org. Most states require the charity or its fundraiser to register to ask for donations.


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