TIPS FOR DONATING TO CHARITIES
Charitable solicitations are becoming evermore prevalent. Unfortunately, some solicitations are deceptive and bogus. Consumers should consider the following practical advice before donating to a charity:
- Do not give cash. Always make contributions by check and make the check out to the charity, not to the individual collecting the donation. Never give out a credit card number over the phone.
- Keep records of all your donations (receipts, canceled checks, and bank statements) so you can document your charitable giving at tax time.
- Before making a donation, check out the charitable organization with the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (207-624-8624), the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division (207-626-8849) or the Better Business Bureau (207-878-2715). Of particular help is the Council of Better Business Bureaus' Philanthropic Advisory Service, 4200 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia 22203 (703-276-0100). This organization monitors and reports on national and international soliciting organizations. At no cost, consumers can receive a single report on an individual charitable organization. You can also contact National Charities Information Bureau in New York City (212-929-6300) or the American Institute of Philanthropy (314-454-3040). You should also ask for a copy of the charity's latest annual report. Finally, there is also an internet service called the Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) which lays out how a charity spends its money, how stable it is financially, and how it compares with similar groups. See also www.guidestar.org, which provides a 10-step guide to choosing a charity.
- Note carefully whether the solicitor makes the disclosures required by the Maine Charitable Solicitations Act, i.e., xxxxxxxxx
- Do not give in to pressure to give money on the spot or allow a "runner" to pick up a contribution. The charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.
- Always request literature from phone solicitors. If they want your pledge first, hang up or ask for a number so you can call them back.