The holiday season is, of course, a time for giving.
But with so many nonprofits and charities clawing for your attention and money, figuring out who to support, who is legit and how to get the most bang for your buck can be tricky.
This is especially true now that Giving Tuesday (Nov. 27), like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday for retailers, has become a day for nonprofits to reap the generosity of Americans.
The Better Business Bureau even released a list of 12 common scams and frauds that are prevalent during the holiday season as some individuals prey on the kindness and generosity of others.
For example, the BBB warns that emails and pop-up ads offering free gift cards should raise alarm bells, while “emergency scams” claiming to be fundraising to support a family member or friend in distress are also widespread.
Michelle Prater, president and CEO of the North Georgia Community Foundation in Gainesville, which supports local nonprofits, said a good place to start when trying to determine whether a charity spends its donations responsibly is using the online tools provided by Guidestar and Charity Navigator.
The search functions on these websites allows views to “ensure that the nonprofit has 501(c)3 status and that they are in good standing” with the Internal Revenue Service.
“That’s absolutely something you want to do, especially in a world where there are so many nonprofits,” Prater said.
It will also provide information about how much a charity spends on its purported mission versus how much it spends on overhead, salaries and fundraising events, for example.
“I think that’s a big piece,” Prater said. “(Charities) may not be using their money effectively.”
Prater also advises people to think about supporting local nonprofits and charities, where the impact of their donations will be right in front of their eyes.
“One of the reasons I think it’s so important to give locally is because the nonprofits that are serving our area understand the needs of our area,” she added.
Of course, giving is more than just about cutting a check. It’s also about service to others.
Prater said that beyond parting with your money, there are significant ways to support local charities this holiday season.
For example, volunteers are commonly needed to help distribute gifts, meals and other resources to those in need.
Moreover, Prater encourages volunteers to find a way to use their talents and professional training to support nonprofits.
If you’re a handyman, for example, find a way to help an organization that provides free home repairs to the elderly.
Or, if you’re a marketing and communications expert, support a charity by helping get their message out and supporting their fundraising efforts.
Offering your “talent and time” are areas that are often overlooked by those willing and able to give during the holiday season, Prater said.