Giving Tuesday: How to Make Sure A Donation Request Isn’t a Scam

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After a few days (or weeks) of feverishly chasing down Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, holiday shoppers can take a needed break on Giving Tuesday to support their favorite charities and get the old karma back in alignment. Before sending in your money, though, make sure the charity is legitimate and not some scam.

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A good place to start is by checking in with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which provides tips on how to research and identify the right charities. The organization has partnered with Give.org on the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, which provides reports on charities based on 20 standards for charitable accountability in four key areas: governance, results reporting, finances, and truthful and transparent communications.

“Holiday donations can make a real impact,” Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB WGA, said in a press release. “Therefore, it’s critical that donors’ hard-earned dollars go to charities that operate ethically.”

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To ensure those dollars go to the right place, here are some tips to help you avoid scams on Giving Tuesday:

  • Beware of similar names. Many charities have similar names — and fraudsters often set up fake charities that sound a lot like legit ones — so make sure you know the exact name of your charity before donating to it.
  • Scan the charity’s website carefully. According to the BBB, a responsible charity will include the following on its site: its mission and programs, measurable goals, concrete criteria on its achievements, and financial data. If you don’t see these, consider it a red flag.
  • Don’t make impulse donations to unfamiliar organizations. You’ll get a lot more donation requests over the holidays — along with more pressure to give immediately. But take your time to properly research the organization first, even if it takes a few days.
  • Check your state’s charity governing body. Many states require charities to register with the attorney general’s office before soliciting donations. Find the appropriate office in your state to learn if a charity is legitimate. You can find this information on the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) website.
  • Research the charity’s tax status. Just because an organization claims to be a charity doesn’t mean it’s tax exempt. Those that aren’t tax exempt might not have the best record for ensuring their donations are used for the advertised purposes. You can find an organization’s tax status by using the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search It’s also a good idea to make sure your contribution is tax deductible.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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