Last month, viral videos of people pouring ice water over their heads sparked a donation frenzy. Participants, including celebrities and a former U.S. President, were seen braving the chilly water all to support the ALS Association, a national BBB Accredited Charity.
Many people think about taking out their checkbooks around this time and donating to charity.
Unfortunately, not all charities manage donor contributions in the same manner. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin encourages you to visit bbb.org before you donate to a charity. BBB charity reports will help you get a clear understanding of a charitable organization’s mission, programs and financials before you make a donation.
Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA) helps donors make informed giving decisions and promotes high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. It produces reports about national charities, evaluating them against BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. BBB Charity Reports offer an unbiased overview so that people can feel confident when giving.
Non-profit organizations are considered eligible for BBB Charity Accreditation if they are a publicly soliciting, locally governed, non-profit, charitable organization; at least two years old; and in compliance with BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. For details on the accreditation process for charities, visit give.org.
Before you donate, BBB has this advice for giving wisely:
- Research the organization. Check org to view reports on how national charities measure up to BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Confirm the organization is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) and verify the programs and distribution of money is where you want it to be. According to BBB’s Standards for Charity Accountability:
At least 65 percent of total expenses should be spent on program activities.
No more than 35 percent of related contributions can be spent on fundraising.
- Verify authenticity. If you’re suspicious about a page, email or link claiming to support a charity, do an online search of the charity’s name and verify that it’s the official website before donating. BBB Accredited Charities must include their IRS Form 990 on their website.
- Avoid giving cash, where possible. It’s best to make contributions by check or credit card payable to the charity, not to the individual collecting the donation.
- Keep records of your donations. You have to keep a record of all donations so you can document your charitable giving at tax time. Although your time as a volunteer is not deductible, out-of-pocket expenses directly related to your volunteer service to a charity may be deductible.
- Be wary of imitations. Don’t be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of well-known organizations.
- Confirm text code numbers. If you plan to donate by text, confirm the text code directly with the charity. You can also check out BBB’s Mobile Giving Foundation at mobilegiving.org to verify a text code. Keep in mind that text message donations are typically not immediate. Depending on your cell phone provider, the donation may not show up on your bill for 30 to 90 days.