When natural disasters occur, like the tornado a few weeks ago, a normal reaction from people is to donate their time or money to charities to help those in their time of need. Of course, charities take donations year round, not just in times of crisis, so before you give, here are few tips on how to do so wisely.
Don’t Give Cash. Make contributions by check and make your check payable to the charitable organization, not the individual collecting the money.
Keep Records of Your Donations. This is so you can document your charitable giving at tax time. Though your time may not be deductible, out of pocket expenses related to the donation of your time (like transportation costs) may be tax deductible.
Pay Attention to the Name of the Charity. Don’t be fooled by names that closely resemble those of well-known national charities.
Be Careful with Tax Exempt vs. Tax Deductible. “Tax exempt” means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. “Tax Deductible” means the donor can deduct contributions to the organization on his or her federal income tax return. Just because an organization is tax exempt does not mean that your donations are tax deductible.
Do your homework. There are several sites where you can research a charity. The Better Business Bureau developed the Wise Giving Alliance to help donors make informed giving decisions. It reviews and produces reports on national soliciting charitable organizations. The Wise Giving Alliance has also partnered with GuideStar USA and Independent Sector to create Charting Impact. Charting Impact reports offer concise, detailed information, in a consistent format, about what individual nonprofits are aiming to accomplish. Such reports can counteract the emphasis on ratios or other narrow criteria too often used as sole measures of charity value. They can enhance the information available to the public in the Alliance’s evaluative reports. You may also wish to check out the charity with your state’s Attorney General as the charity may be required to register with the state before they can solicit donations.
Your BBB also has a charity review program for local charities. Feel free to call us at 812-473-0202 or visit our website for more information.
For more tips about giving wisely, visit http://evansville.bbb.org/Charitable-Giving-Guide/.