The holiday season is fast approaching, which means consumers are getting ready to ramp up their charitable giving. In light of this, Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is urging donors to research charities they wish to give to before donating.
Each year around the holidays consumers are bombarded with solicitations and appeals from all sorts of charities.
“Giving during the holidays is in our nature,” says BBB CEO Kim States. “It’s important for consumers to take some time to research each charity they are considering donating to. Everyone wins if they make a wise giving decision.”
Not only can researching charities save consumers from donating to charities with less than stellar track records, it can even prevent them from being scammed.
Locally, BBB Wise Giving of Southern Arizona has Charity Reviews available for over 450 Southern Arizona charities. All charities are reviewed against BBB’s 20 Standards of Charitable Accountability, which seeks to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations, and to better inform donors about how their donations are being spent.
This past June, BBB Wise Giving of Southern Arizona began issuing letter grades to Southern Arizona charities based on how many of the 20 Standards of Charitable Accountability they satisfied. Charities that meet all 20 standards are given an A+ grade, and become BBB Accredited Charities- which is free to all Southern Arizona charities that qualify.
Additionally, researching a charity before giving can prevent donors from being scammed. Scam artists have long tried to impersonate well known charities in an effort to fool donors into giving up their hard earned cash. Often times donors never even realize that they’ve been scammed- instead they assume their donation actually went to their intended cause.
BBB offers the following tips to help donors make wise giving decisions, and to avoid scams:
- Do not give cash; always make contributions by check and make your check payable to the charity, not to the individual collecting the donation.
- Keep records of your donations (receipts, canceled checks, and bank statements) so you can document your charitable giving at tax time. Although the value of your time as a volunteer is not deductible, out-of-pocket expenses (including transportation costs) directly related to your volunteer service to a charity are deductible.
- Don't be fooled by imposters. Many scammers will use names that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization.
- In Arizona, you can verify if the charity is soliciting legally by checking with the Secretary of State at www.azsos.gov.
- Mail appeals should clearly identify the charity and describe its programs in clear and specific language. Beware of appeals that bring tears to your eyes but tell you nothing of the charity or what it's doing about the problem it describes so well.
- Appeals should not be disguised as bills or invoices. It is illegal to mail a bill, invoice, or statement of account due that is in fact an appeal for funds, unless it bears a clear and noticeable disclaimer stating that it is an appeal and that you are under no obligation to pay unless you accept the offer.
- Deceptive invoices are most often aimed at businesses rather than individuals. Contact your BBB for detailed guidelines on how to handle appeals disguised as bills or invoices.
Before giving to a Southern Arizona charity, donors should visit www.tucson.bbb.org/charity to look at the organization’s Charity Review. To see the Charity Reviews for larger, nationally soliciting charities, donors can visit www.bbb.org/charity.