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Give wisely this holiday season
Research charities before you make donations
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Tips for giving

  • Research charities before contributing at websites like www.give.org and www.GuideStar.org.
  • Be wary of telephone solicitations asking for contributions. Ask for the request in writing and for more information about the organization. You can also ask if the solicitor is a volunteer or if they’re being paid.
  • Never give credit or debit card, or bank account information to someone over the phone.
  • Be cautious of couriers willing to rush to your home or business to collect donations.
  • Find out which organization are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contribution online at www.IRS.gov/charities
  • Make sure you know who you’re donating to, not all charitable sounding names are actually charities.
  • If someone solicits a contribution using the words “police” or “fire department,” call the local police or fire department to be sure the group is actually supporting the department and ask what the contribution will be used for.
  • To file a complaint against a charitable organization, contact the Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards Division by visiting www.sos.ga.gov/plb.

Source: Secretary of State’s Office

This time of year, there is no shortage of groups seeking donations for worthy causes.

But with so many organizations to chose from, how can you be sure your money is being well spent?

“There are a lot of nonprofits in North Georgia that do almost anything you can imagine, and I suggest you make contributions to local nonprofits first,” said Jim Mathis, CEO of The North Georgia Community Foundation.

The North Georgia Community Foundation is a local tax-exempt public charity that helps people and organizations accomplish charitable goals.

Mathis said by giving to any of the more than 700 local charities, donors are able to find out more about the group and keep track of its activities.

“They will be the most efficient and the closest to the person who needs the service,” Mathis said.

Whether the charity is big or small, local or national, donors should take it upon themselves to research the organization before donating.

“Many wish to give back to those less fortunate through charitable organizations, and I ask that donors familiarize themselves with an organization before giving to ensure legitimacy, so their gifts are used properly,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a news release.

There are several online resources to help donors research charities. Donors can visit the Better Business Bureau’s website at www.give.org or GuideStar at www.guidestar.org to find more detailed information about nonprofit organizations.

Donors can see the breakdown of how much money the charity spends on expenses like salaries and fundraising activities that don’t directly support the organization’s mission.

Mathis said donors are welcome to call the community foundation if they need assistance in researching nonprofit organizations.

Some charities may spend as much as 50 percent on overhead costs, meaning only 50 cents of each dollar you donate is spent directly on the cause.

Mathis said the ideal amount an organization should spend on overhead costs is between 8 and 15 percent.

Solicitations for donations may come in a variety of forms, over the telephone, in the mail or even in person. While those methods are not necessarily cause for alarm, donors shouldn’t feel rushed to make a decision about making a contribution.

“There are a lot of solicitations that come out this time of year and you should take each one with a grain of salt, particularly mail and telephone solicitations,” Mathis said.

Donors should never give out credit card, debit card or bank account information to a telephone solicitor. They should also be cautious of anyone willing to rush to your business or home to pick up a donation.

Donors should be skeptical of organizations that only list a post office box or mail drop suite numbers, as well.

Another thing for donors to be aware of is that some organizations may have names that are very similar to other well-recognized groups making it easy for donors to confuse the two.

Before making any donation be absolutely sure you know to whom you’re donating. An organization with a charitable sounding name may not actually be a charity at all.

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