(StatePoint) The holiday season is when many express a giving spirit. Most will support charities whose work they see first-hand locally. But in mailboxes every day, there are appeals from many other local and national charities. How can donors verify their accuracy?
A recent survey by Hope Consulting shows that despite information available from state government agencies, charity watchdogs and the organization itself, only 30 percent of donors do any research before making a donation.
Experts advise potential donors to look more carefully at solicitation letters they receive and seek out third-party information sources.
“While the vast majority of charities are trustworthy, not all are what they appear to be -- from the unscrupulous, to the well-meaning but poorly-run organizations,” warns H. Art Taylor, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, which seeks to connect donors to charities they can trust.
“If donors want to assure their money will be put to good use, they should spend a little bit of time getting to know more about the organization,” says Taylor.
The first step is to take a good, hard look at the charity solicitation you receive in the mail or encounter online.
Here are several examples of potential problems a donor may encounter in mail, online or by phone solicitations:
• Appeals that don’t clearly explain what the charity intends to do about the problem it describes.
• Envelopes or letters that mimic an invoice in order to get a recipient to open the mailing.
• Solicitations that devote more attention to gifts or prizes (for example, sweepstakes offerings, address labels or greeting cards) than the charity’s good work.
• Overly emotional fundraising letters saying little about the charity itself.
• Appeals using excessive pressure to get an immediate on-the-spot donation decision.
• Telemarketing solicitors who decline to send requested written materials about the charity’s programs and finances.
“Scrutinizing a charity appeal is crucial, but you should never make a charitable giving decision based solely on the information in a solicitation,” says Taylor.
However, it can be difficult for donors to know what to look for in a charity’s financial statement. This is where a monitoring organization can help.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance is the only major national charity monitoring organization that reviews appeal content for accuracy and truthfulness as a routine part of its charity reporting efforts. Charities are evaluated against 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability that address charity governance, finances and solicitation practices.
A recent survey conducted by Porter Novelli’s ConsumerStyles found that nearly six in ten say that the charity solicitation mail they receive is either not very or not at all trustworthy. So if there’s any doubt, do your research.
Before donating, consider accessing a free report on the charity of your choice at www.give.org. And if your charity isn’t listed, you can ask the BBB Wise Giving Alliance to consider a review of that charity.
‘Tis the season to give back. Ensure your charitable dollars support organizations that don’t use dodgy fundraising tactics.