For AgFed and our members, charitable giving is a longstanding tradition, and many of us are really grateful for the opportunity to support those people who are making a difference out there.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few dishonest charities and outright scams that well-intentioned people can mistakenly end up supporting, as well. So, how do we know if an organization is doing the right thing?
Fortunately, there are also several ways to check whether the charity you’d like to support is on the level. It might take a bit of research, but it’s always a good idea to do your due diligence in order to avoid getting scammed.
Don’t settle for the first charity that “sounds good”
Sometimes, it seems like we have another problem to deal with every day. The sad truth is there is no shortage of people who need help, thanks to new conflicts, natural disasters, and diseases. With each novel difficulty we are used to seeing a new charitable organization or crowdfunding request appear, and this creates an opportunity for dishonest individuals.
When you’re looking into a new charity, whether it’s brand new or you haven’t donated to them before, there are a few simple steps you can take. The easiest of these is to do a quick online search for news and reviews related to the organization.
You can find reviews and complaints about charities on sites like Give.org, which is the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. Just remember that, like all online reviews, you should always take these reviews with a grain of salt. People love to complain, and the anonymity of the internet allows them to do so freely.
You can also pretty easily check the I.R.S. website to ensure that the nonprofit in question is listed as a 501(c)3. Be sure to check their searchable database of charitable organizations, and verify before donating.
Finally, consider choosing just a few charities that you really like and sticking with them. There will always be new problems in the world, and it’s good to find a way to help. There’s nothing wrong, however, with continuing to donate to a charity that has a good reputation and has been actively working to solve a problem for a long time. This not only mitigates your risk of falling for a scam, but also helps charitable organizations deliver long-term solutions even when they’re no longer “fashionable” to donate to.
You can get down to the nitty gritty if you really need to
Another good and really simple tip is to spend some time reviewing the nonprofit’s website. Make sure you really understand their mission, their processes, and that the language they use is clear.
The better you understand how this charity works, the more comfortable you will be when donating to them. If you’re not sure about something, you should ask. A legitimate nonprofit organization will be willing to answer any questions you have about their mission.
It’s also worth finding answers for other concerns you might have: How does the charity evaluate its own effectiveness? Does it use independent auditors? What percentage of donations goes toward fundraising and overhead? Is the mission supported by academic research? These are all valid questions that the nonprofit should be able to answer.
Watch out for red flags
All things considered, there are a few signs that you might not want to support certain groups. Some of these are fairly easy: If they lack the 501(c)3 status, if their reviews are all terrible, or if you can’t find answers to questions you have, you might want to avoid that organization.
Another big red flag is if the organization is sitting on a large chunk of funds. It’s a sign they might not be putting the funds to good use, and instead reserving them for something else. As a donor, you need to know if your money is going to be used properly or just sidelined.
Finally, be wary of any organization or so-called representative that is extremely pushy about getting you to donate immediately, or to donate cash. Both of these are bad signs. Legitimate organizations might be passionate, but they probably won’t be overly aggressive or abusive toward potential donors. Cash can be lost or stolen, and you should never pay a solicitor directly. Make sure you have a paper trail you can follow if needed.
With charitable giving, your comfort and safety comes first
AgFed members love donating their time and money to worthy causes. We don’t want you to get caught in an avoidable scam, and we want you to feel comfortable making your donations.
Remember, when you’re evaluating a new charitable nonprofit, you’re doing so for your own security and comfort. It’s not your job to hunt for scammers posing as reputable organizations. You should just take steps to protect yourself from them.