As scammers seek to exploit holiday generosity, Better Business Bureau urges consumers to protect well-intentioned donations.
According to the Nonprofit Research Collaborative's November 2010 Fundraising Survey, the majority of all charitable contributions are made in the last quarter of the year—October to December. Not surprisingly, scammers ramp up efforts during this time in hopes of snagging funds for themselves.
"Charities rely on giving season donations for the following year," stated Sherry Guderjohn, Charity Review Manager for BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. "When fraudulent charities or dishonest solicitors intercept donation dollars, it leaves legitimate organizations and those they serve in a difficult position."
BBB Foundation's Charity Review Program, which has comprehensive local Charity Reviews, has compiled top tips to protect consumers and their donations:
Verify Validity: Don't let emotional appeals and high pressure tactics dictate donations. Visit akorww.bbb.org/charity to research local BBB Charity Reviews. Utilize online search engines and databases like GuideStar.org and CharityNavigator.org. Ensure local charities are properly registered with the Washington Secretary of State Charity Program.
Spotlight Spending: According to BBB's 20 Standards of Charity Accountability, publicly soliciting charities should spend at least 65 percent of total expenses on program activities. Be leery when solicitors declare that all proceeds go to the cause, but fail to substantiate claims. Seek out the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 from publicly soliciting charities; this form should be made available with appeals.
Protect Payments: Avoid giving cash and make checks payable to charities, not individual solicitors. Always request receipts or confirmation codes for donations.
Find more wise giving tips and BBB Charity Reviews at akorww.bbb.org/charity or give.org.