How to Both Vet Charitable Organizations and Avoiding Scams When Donating to Charity

Charitable giving of time, goods, and/or money is an endeavor that many people find rewarding simply because they know they are helping others who may be less fortunate, or are helping further the work of a cause that is important to them. While some enjoy spending time volunteering and others like to donate goods that their charitable organization needs, many prefer to make financial contributions.  In fact, charitable giving by Americans in 2021 is estimated at $480 billion, according to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy.  Unfortunately, with a number that large, scammers appear to try to separate givers from their dollars. Here are some tips and resources you should be aware of to both vet charitable organizations and ensure that your donations are going to the charity of your choice.

Research organizations prior to donating.

It’s important to vet charitable organizations before making a financial donation so that you can be comfortable in knowing that your funds will be used appropriately.  There are various online charity vetting tools including Charity Navigator and CharityWatch which you can use to screen organizations. These online tools evaluate charities by analyzing details such as funding sources, spending, financial health, tax forms, annual reports and transparency. In turn, you can use this information to make an informed decision about which you choose to support.

Be on guard against scammers.

Charity scammers will use any opportunity to prey upon your good intentions and steal your donations. A fake organization with a real-sounding name may contact you by telephone, email, direct mail, social media, or even at your front door. Scammers may have professional-looking websites and organization names that are similar to established charities that you know.  Watch out for red flags, including the following:

  • Don’t allow anyone to pressure you into making a donation. Legitimate charities will appreciate any amount you give and whenever you may give it. They will not hard sell or guilt you into bigger or quicker donations.
  • Scammers may demand payment in the form of gift cards, cryptocurrency, or money transfers.
  • Fake charities may contact you under the pretense of seeking donations for a wide variety of heartfelt causes including veterans’ services, disaster relief, and cancer care. Always research an organization prior to donating.
  • Do not give out personal details such as your birthdate, social security number or banking information.
  • Don’t click on any links in unsolicited emails or social media posts requesting donations. This could trigger the release of malware.

As you evaluate your options for charitable giving, remember to use caution in selecting organizations to support. Whether the charity supports a specific cause like medical research, the environment, or one’s alma mater, you want to ensure that your gift is truly benefitting the cause you intend.  If you would like more information, please contact us.