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How to Easily Protect Yourself When Giving to Charities

Are you someone who loves giving to charities? My wife and I sure do. We make it a practice to give at various times during the year. But our interest really peaks during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There are so many charitable organizations that do great work at these times of year. It is true that people are in need year round. However, the depth and seriousness of focus seems to peak during the holidays. I think that’s because we have an innate – some would say God-given desire – to help those in need. Many of us have been blessed through the holidays and we want to pass those joys and blessings on to others.

giving to charitiesOf course giving to charities doesn’t have to be only about money. You can give of your time and talents as well. But for most, the easiest path is to donate money and let the charities put that to use the best way they know how.

But how do you know if your money will be used wisely? Perhaps the better question is how do you know if you are not getting ripped off or taken advantage of by a rogue charity or a scam artist?

Recently the people who run ConsumerSafety.org reached out to me about this very issue. They strive to inform consumers of safety related issues that impact our everyday life. And when it comes to giving to charities specifically, they are seeing scammers becoming more prevalent in this area.

With that in mind, they shared with me some tips for giving to charities. Here are some of the best practices they suggest for protecting yourself when giving.

Protecting Yourself When Giving to Charities

It goes without saying you should avoid scams. And during the holidays you get hit with all kinds of phone calls, emails and in-person solicitations. When that happens, ConsumerSafety.org advises you to keep these three things in mind.

#1: The Basics: Emails, Wiring Cash, Websites

If you receive a solicitation email by a charity that you are unfamiliar with, do not open any links or attachments. Scammers often embed viruses into links or attachments. Legitimate charities rarely use email attachments. They would rather direct you to their website. So search for the charity’s authorized website in your internet browser instead of going to it from an email.

In addition, be alert to charities asking you to wire cash or send money overseas. Cash is too easy to steal and hard to track. The charity may say they want to help people in foreign countries. But no legitimate charity will ask you to send money to a foreign bank account.

Also be wary if a phone or in-person solicitor seems pushy or demands an immediate decision. There is no need to rush into giving. Quiz the person on the charity’s mission and the way it spends its contributions. Also, ask for proof that the donation is tax-deductible.

Finally, before making an online donation, look at the website URL, check for a privacy policy and make sure they use encryption technology. Notice whether or not the charity’s web page start with “https?” If it does, the site is using updated security features. If the charity’s website does not have a privacy policy or use encryption technology, think twice about donating. Without these safeguards, your personal information could be at risk.

#2: Do Your Research

One of the challenges of helping others is that giving is linked to our emotions. Our feelings get in the way sometimes and we give without thinking. So remember, just because a charity asks, does not mean that you have to donate. If you don’t keep your emotions in check and do your research first, you could end up giving beyond your ability.

So before you give, take a deep breath, set the emotions aside and research the company’s mission. You want to make sure that not only does the charity do good work but that you also believe in the work they do.

Related Content: How to Develop a Purposeful Plan for Giving Away Money

You can use third-party resources like Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and Give.org to research the charity’s mission. You can learn how the charity runs, how effective it is and how it spends its finances.

Also know that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a helpful charity checklist with questions to ask and research to do on the organization before making a charitable contribution.

#3: Never Give Personal Information

Our social media culture has lead to people giving up personal information to easily. When it comes to your finances, that can be dangerous. There is still information that should remain private at times, including when giving to charities.

So for starters, be wary of the charity that asks for your social security. Even scrutinize a charity asking for your bank account. With the option of using a credit and debit card, there is no reason that a charitable organization would need to draw directly from your bank account.

Also, if you are donating items to a charity, be sure to empty furniture drawers and cabinets, purses, and clothing pockets. Remove any papers with bank account numbers, social security numbers, and addresses. Shred these documents if they are no longer needed.

Related Content: Stop Identity Thieves by Shredding the Right Paperwork

Suggested Charities to Consider

There are so many charities vying for your attention. You may not know where to start. Here are a few options to get you thinking.

Toys for Tots: Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped toys to be distributed to children in need during the holiday season. Toys for Tots is highly rated and supported by a variety of home brands. They send 97% of monetary donations going directly to families. Use their website to find the closest donation bin near you.

Samaritan’s Purse: Operation Christmas Child: OCC is an outreach ministry of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief headed by Franklin Graham. Churches, civic organizations and single families have all been a part of OCC’s efforts for over 20 years. Their purpose is to bring hope and joy to children and share the message of Jesus’ love found in the Bible. To accomplish this, volunteers pack shoeboxes with toys and other personal items. The organization then sends the shoeboxes to various countries around the world.

Related Content: Operation Christmas Child: Changing Lives One Shoebox at a Time

Wounded Warrior Project: The mission of the Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower those who have been injured through their military service. Their goal is to connect service men and women to peers, programs and communities so they can live life to the fullest. The main emphasis is on their physical and mental well-being and helping the entire family in the rehabilitative process.

Salvation Army: One of the most well-known charities that has been around since 1865, the Salvation Army assists approximately 25 million Americans each year. However, they also serve in 128 countries around the world. They have a variety of ministries that help fight hunger, reduce poverty, provide shelter, teach kids, meet the needs of the elderly combat addictions and fight human trafficking just to name a few.

Giving to Charities Is Such a Blessing

I hope you feel as I do that the holidays are much more than about what I can get for myself. I find a profound sense of pleasure when I am able to bless other people.

But I still want to give wisely of my resources. That’s why the three suggestions from ConsumerSafety.org are so valuable. I’d encourage you to check out their website for more information on scams and fraud and other consumer safety related tips.

And I’d also like to challenge you to give this holiday season. People need your help. So do your research and find something that excites you. And be generous. You’ll never regret giving to charities and those in need as long as you do it the right way.

Questions for Discussion: Are you currently giving to charities? If so, what are some of your favorite ones?

Photo by Madi Robson on Unsplash
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