WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA 9 Call For Action)--In the next few months you will probably receive a lot of solicitations from charities. How can you make sure your charitable donations are used for the stated purposes?
The solicitations may be in the form of unordered items such as mailing labels, greeting cards and note paper. You are under no obligation to send donations to the charities that sent them to you.
Some charitable appeals are designed to tug at your heart strings but be careful of giving because of emotions rather than getting the facts.
If you are not familiar with a charity ask for information before you contribute. Some helpful hints on how to reduce unsolicited mailings are available at Charity Watch.
MORE: Tips For Reducing Unwanted Mail And Phone Appeals
Take a very careful look at the name. Some frauds have names that sound so much like legitimate, well-known charities that it's difficult to tell them apart. The crooks are banking on your not asking questions. Make sure you are really dealing with a charity.
And of course the big question. How will your donation be used? What part of it will go to the stated purpose and what part to other costs? You may be surprised at how much some organizations spend on fund raising and administrative costs leaving little for charitable pursuit. Before you donate, check with groups that rate charities such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau.
MORE: WUSA9 Call for Action
Under federal regulations, charities are permitted to send you merchandise in the hope you will feel an obligation to make a donation. However, in the past some companies have sent out follow-up letters to people who failed to send a donation. The letters were nothing more than invoices for unordered merchandise, a violation of federal law.
MORE: Federal Trade Commission Info on Unordered Merchandise
Before you respond to such pressure tactics, think about it. Do you want your charitable dollars going to a group that uses illegal tactics in soliciting donations?
Written By: Shirley Rooker
Director, WUSA9 Call for Action