Find Legitimate Charities
and Avoid Charity Fraud
Your family can help others, without becoming the victim of a scam, but you have to take a few steps to protect yourselves.
Throughout the year, but particularly during the holidays, your mailbox may become full of solicitations for a wide number of charities. Often these letters contain photos of homeless people in America or poverty stricken children in Third World countries. They may mention recent hurricanes, earthquakes or other natural disasters that have been highlighted on the news. Your phone will also ring and you'll discover a very "friendly" telemarketer soliciting donations for a charity. They may even call you by your first name, and suggest that you have donated to them in the past. You would love to reach out, write a small check, and know that you helped save a child, or at least alleviated someone's pain and suffering. You don't want to seem selfish, or unfriendly, but you can't afford to give to every charity that approaches you. You also don't want to donate money to an organization, only to discover that the funds are not being well-used.
Charities know that when we donate money to help others, brain chemicals are released that make us feel good about ourselves, too. When you help a worthwhile charity, it is a win-win situation. We help the helpless, and we feel better about ourselves. However, when we realize that we have been the victim of a scam, everyone loses. Not only do we feel hurt and disappointed, but we are less willing to help the charities that really are doing a good job. How can we find charities that need and deserve our donations, without becoming the victim of scam artists who are trying to trick us into making donations?
FOCUS ON WELL-KNOWN CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS
There are plenty of reputable, well-known organizations that are performing worthwhile services to disadvantaged people around the world. Among these organizations are the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Salvation Army, World Vision and Catholic Charities. There are a number of women's service organizations such as the Junior League, Junior Forum, Women's Charity League and the Junior Assistance League. Many men are part of service organizations such as the Elk's Club. If you want to donate to a number of reputable local organizations at the same time, you may want to contribute to them through the United Way.
Your local community may have an organization that is doing wonderful work for your town or school district. In Los Angeles, for example, we have Homeboy Industries which provides jobs, tattoo removal and other services to help young people escape from gangs. The founder, Father Greg Boyle, has written a book, "Tattoos on the Heart," to raise money for his gang prevention program. Many people buy the book just to help the organization. Others donate money directly. It is a local organization that they feel safe donating to, because they know how the money will be spent. Stick with organizations that you are familiar with. That mysterious stranger, who calls you asking for donations to send underprivileged children to the circus, may not be representing a charity at all! How are you to know?
In our home, we politely ask phone solicitors to mail us any requests for charitable contributions. Much to our surprise, some of these solicitors have simply hung up on us! We would never want to give to an organization that was unwilling to mail us information.
CHECK OUT ANY CHARITIES BEFORE MAKING THAT DONATION
Today, with the availability of computers, it is much easier to research any charitable organization which you are considering giving aid to. It is now possible to find out how much of the money will go to help the unfortunate, and how much will go to pay for salaries and fund-raising. One place where you can check out charitable organizations is the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. You can also find out how much of your donation will be spent on the needy, by discovering the charity efficiency rating at www.forbes.com/charities.
You can always simply Google the name of the charity and read comments by others who have made donations. Be aware that there will always be a few people with an axe to grind. However, a web search might also help you learn some information that will help you make up your mind about which charities you are most comfortable with.
You may also want to read more about the types of scams that people use to trick you into donating money. If so, use this direct Amazon link to books and videos about charity scams. They are very eye-opening and could save you from making an expensive mistake.
ASK RELIGIOUS LEADERS OR LOCAL HOSPITALS ABOUT CHARITIES
Sometimes people feel more comfortable making donations that have been recommended by their own religious leaders or local hospitals. This is another excellent way to find out about legitimate charitable organizations. For example, you may want to donate to a foundation that your church sponsors. If you volunteer with or belong to a non-profit organization, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Alanon, you may already feel comfortable making donations to them. Or, you may want to donate to a medical group that helps people with a specific illness. Your local hospital may be the best place to find the name of the most outstanding and legitimate charity for that disease. Many people help raise money by participating in local fundraisers for national groups, such as by running in Race for the Cure, which raises money for breast cancer research. This can be a wonderful way to memorialize someone who has died or honor someone who has become seriously ill.
However you choose to donate, make sure that your money is being spent the way you intended. Your good intentions should not just go to make a scam artist rich. With a little research, you can benefit others and protect your hard-earned money, too!
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