Savvy Charitable Giving

The spirit of the season brings ample opportunities for gratitude and giving.  Especially emotionally laden decisions to pay it forward and perhaps memorialize a loved one with a charitable donation.  Unfortunately, if you're not a savvy giver, your gift may be in vain.  Scam artists and sloppy organizations risk wasting your contribution, even though most charities handle finances responsibly.

Bennett Weiner says, believe it or not, most people don't ask much about an organization before they decide to donate.  Weiner is Chief Operating Officer of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance.  He encourages people to be informed about giving.  

Weiner says mistaken identities are common in the charity world.  You might hear a name that sounds similar to another group you've supported before. "Many times the organization soliciting you is not the one you have in mind."  Confusion can come from the vagueness of an appeal, an overly emotional approach or pressure from someone asking for your help.  "You do need to be careful when you see extra pressure" says Weiner.  Just telling you about an problem isn't enough; an established charity should be able to tell you what it plans to do about it.  Instead of feeling forced by phone solicitors to give on the spot, you should request written information explaining more about the charity. Weiner insists than even small groups and local groups, if legitimate 501(c)(3) organizations, should be prepared to share information like their annual report.

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More about BBB Wise Giving Alliance at