Americans deeply moved by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, are reaching for their wallets these days. As always happens when a heartbreaking event such as this takes place, many are led to contribute to the cause, motivated by the touching stories of the effected families. Your Better Business Bureau advises that care be taken when you select the charity through which your gift is given.
Caution is especially warranted as evidence comes to light of scammers seeking to capitalize on the generosity of American consumers. Relatives of one of the children killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have notified police of a scammer seeking donations on behalf of that child without the family’s knowledge. Accordingly, unsolicited requests for donations by phone or email should be considered extra carefully.
Here are the BBB’s tips for giving with confidence:
· Give thoughtfully. Your donation could be wasted if you give to a questionable or poorly managed charity. Don’t automatically give to the first request encountered. Check out the organization first. You may want to seek out a known and trusted charity if it’s helping with the Newtown cause.
· Look for state government registration. About 40 of the 50 states require charities to register with a state agency, usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office. Kansas is one of those states and you can find out if a charity is registered by going to kscharitycheck.org.
· Victims and their families should be treated with respect. By that we mean that organizations raising funds should get permission from the family of a victims whose name or photograph is being used for fund-raising. This has not always happened, most recently in the case of the Colorado theater shooting.
· Vagueness regarding exactly how the funds will be used is a red flag. Does the money go directly to the families? How soon will the funds get to them? Ask these questions of the charitable organization you’re considering.
· Families that choose to set up their own assistance funds my not have set them up as charities. Find out if collected money is received and administered by a third party like a bank, CPA or lawyer. This helps with oversight and assures donations are used appropriately.
· Check up on an advocacy group before giving to them. When public issues like firearms or school policing are raised, there may be issues to consider before contributing to the advocacy book. Some may not be tax exempt. New advocacy groups may be hard to check on.
· Don’t click on links to charities sent through unsolicited texts or emails. They may be phishing or smishing for your private information or they may contain harmful malware that will be placed on your computer. Charities recommended on Facebook, in blogs or other social media may not have been vetted.
· Look for financial transparency. The information about how and where funds are spent should be clearly posted on their website in a timely manner.
· If tax deductibility matters to you, find out about it. Remember that contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual or family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the organization is a charity.
Check out a charity with the Better Business Bureau at www.give.org. The BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance reports on over 1,300 national charitable organizations and another 10,000 local and regional charities. By considering a few details about the charity you contribute to, you can have assurance that your gift is efficiently benefitting worthy causes like the victims and their families in Newtown.
For more information contact your BBB by calling (800) 856-2417, or visit our website at www.kansasplains.bbb.org.