The Right On The Money Blog

Take Precautions When Donating to Charity

When there is a humanitarian crisis in another part of the world, such as what is happening now in Ukraine, Americans are often at a loss for what they can do to help. Most of us cannot offer in-person assistance by traveling to war-torn places. Often, the only thing it seems we can do is to donate money and hope that the organization that receives it puts the donation to good use.

Before you donate, there are some precautions you can take to ensure your money is going to a legitimate organization. The Federal Trade Commission has put together this checklist to help guide you.

Five Things To Do Before You Donate to a Charity

  1. 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,” “fraud,” or “scam.” If you find bad reviews, it might be best to find another organization.
  2. Check out the charity’s website. Does it give you details 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.
  3. Use one of these organizations that help you research charities:
  1. Find out if the fundraiser and the charity are registered. Some states require that charities register with the state regulator. Check to see if a fundraiser and the charity they’re calling on behalf of are registered with your state’s charity regulator.
  2. Check if the donation will be tax deductible. If this is important to you, confirm that the organization you’re donating to is registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt organization. Look up the organization in the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search.

Your Turn: How have you verified a monetary donation is going to a good cause? Tell us about it in the comments.