Wise Giving Alliance and Standards for Charity Accountability Help Consumers Make Sound Decisions Before Donating
Many Americans help spread good will and cheer over the holidays by donating to charity. Sadly, well-intentioned donors can end up losing their money to a fake charity, one that uses a name similar to a well-established organization, a third party processor that takes a percentage of funds raised or a charity with extremely high administration costs.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau urges donors to be extremely careful, do their research and use BBB’s resources to check charities before giving a gift. People who want to make a contribution may look up a charity the same way they would research a business, in the “For Consumers” section at www.bbb.org, and “Check out a Business or Charity.”
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance produces reports on nationally soliciting charitable organizations. About one-third of Better Business Bureaus in the United States report on regionally soliciting charities.
The BBB’s Charitable Review Program is designed to empower donors to make wise giving decisions and encourage local charitable organizations to accept the responsibility of self-regulation by adhering to a set of 20 Better Business Bureau Standards for Charity Accountability. The charity standards promote public accountability, responsible use of funds, proper solicitation and governance practices.
It is extremely important to maximize the impact of holiday donations by avoiding common giving mistakes, including donating through a hyperlink in an email, text message or social media message. In addition, while most charities have the best of intentions, not all meet standards or spend donations wisely. A careful donor takes a hard look at a charity’s programs, finances and governance before making a donation.
Connecticut BBB recommends donors avoid these common mistakes when donating to a charity this holiday:
- Research the charity before you give. Even good friends may not have fully researched the charities they endorse, so don’t just take their word for it; expertise is available. Go to www.bbb.org/charity to verify that a charity meets the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
- Do not be influenced by high-pressure or emotional appeals. Giving on the spot is never necessary, no matter how hard a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor pushes it. The charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.
- Make sure you know the charity’s correct identity. With so many charities in existence, their names can blur in a donor’s mind and similar-sounding organizations are common. Be sure you know which charity you’re supporting and that it’s not a case of mistaken identity.
- Do not assume charities can use donated household items and clothing. Worn out, unusable or unwanted donated goods cost charities millions of dollars each year because the organization has to bear the cost of discarding the unacceptable donation. If you have questions about an item’s acceptability, call the charity and ask.
- “Low overhead” expenses should not be the only factor you consider. How much money a charity spends on the actual cause—as compared to how much goes toward fundraising and administration—is an important factor, but it’s not the whole story. A charity with impressive financial ratios could have other significant problems such as insufficient transparency, inadequate board activity and inaccurate appeals.
For more consumer tips, visit www.ct.bbb.org.
Submitted by Howard Schwartz Executive Communications Director, Connecticut Better Business Bureau