As we approach the holiday season, many charities are seeking year-end donations to meet the needs of those less fortunate. Giving Tuesday, the National Day of Giving, kicks off the holiday giving season on Tuesday, following Cyber Monday. As many consumers consider making donations this holiday season, BBB reminds consumers to make educated decisions when making donations.
About 70 percent of funds raised by nonprofits come from individual donations. That's why it's so important that donors make sure their donations go to legitimate, trustworthy organizations.
To assist donors in making wise giving decisions, BBB serving Central East Texas released its third annual Holiday Giving Guide. The guide is available online.
Nearly 40 local charities have met all BBB Standards of Charity Accountability, including a review of governance, solicitation materials, finances and effectiveness. The Standards, developed over a three-year period with input from nonprofit representatives, IRS officials, foundation executives, donors and other stakeholder groups, provide an objective means to evaluate a charity's governance and oversight.
BBB offers tips to help consumers maintain rewarding philanthropic experiences:
Be sure the group is a charity. Not every group that solicits money is a charity. If you plan to deduct your contribution, make sure your charity is on the current list of tax-exempt charities at www.irs.gov.
Make sure the charity is accountable. The BBB has published reports on over 9,000 national charities, which have been assessed against the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. This year, reports on East Texas charities are also available at bbb.org.
Watch out for sound-a-like charities. If a charity sounds familiar but you aren't sure about its identity, contact BBB for a report.
Just say no. If you are pressured by someone to give, over the phone or in person, ask to see written information or simply say no. Never fall prey to high pressure pitches.
Choose charities that reflect your passions. This is a great time of year to support causes you care about, by supporting them with your dollars and/or your time.
Support charities that are meeting community needs. In the current difficult economic environment, charities are facing increased needs with limited resources. Look around and see what the needs are, then give to charities that are helping the communities you care about in key ways.
Be proactive with your giving. Rather than waiting to be solicited, donate by initiating contact with an organization you've checked out. For online donations, make sure you are giving through a secure site: look for the "https" letters in your browser. Remember, when you give without being asked, you also save the charity money on fundraising costs.
Give with your family. For parents, this can be an especially meaningful and rewarding way to spend time together and to impart strong philanthropic values to children.
Give with your friends. Giving circles are popular and create valuable bonding experiences. Like-minded individuals often form groups to share information and research about issues and charities.
For more ways to be a savvy consumer or donor, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373.