A piece of snail mail that looks like an official certified letter that demands that you follow up on your yearly payment to "Our Lady of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon Left Handed Orphanage" or ten more children will go homeless and hungry.
An email arrives in your inbox that has all of the right buzz words and logos stating that they have not seen your "kind donation" for the "American Foundation for Dyslexic Pet Supplies."
A phone call from the Director of Benefits of the "International Religious Foundation for Community Organization" asking you for a credit card number so you can give "small monthly donations" to save your local neighborhood alliance.......and where should I send your complementary 2014 calendar and custom address labels?
I mean, how many children have you watched on TV go naked, cold and unsheltered because you haven't called 1-800-FeedMyNeighbors?
We are bombarded (especially this time of year) with hundreds of donation and charity requests in every imaginable shape and form.
How do you know they are legitimate?
Maybe some of you are pretty savvy at weeding through all of the unscrupulous solicitations but you have to admit that some of them look pretty official and credible and could easily fool someone who is not paying close attention.
Well, let's not take that chance.
In this third and final installment blog on charities let's take a look at some tips and pointers that may help us 50 year old and better "do-gooders" make sure we are making wise donation choices.
All too frequently, older citizens of the US, especially the elderly, are the victims of charitable fraud.
If you have a friend that is not as street wise as you are on computers and legal documents or if you're a relative or caretaker of an older American, please take a moment to review the following tips.
These easy-to-follow precautions can help ensure that everyone will contribute only to legitimate and efficient charities.
1. Don't succumb to pressure tactics.
Well-run charities don't use pressure tactics to garner support for their mission.
They don't have to.
Their good work and financial health speaks for itself.
2. Verify their claims that you've contributed in the past.
If a caller or an appeal letter indicates that you've given in the past, but it doesn't sound familiar to you, be sure to check it out for yourself.
Look up previous entries in your checkbook or past credit card bills and confirm for yourself that you've supported this particular charity before.
3. Do not feel compelled to give because you received a gift.
Just because you received some mailing labels, cards or an umbrella, that doesn't mean you're required to reciprocate with a donation.
Be especially wary of sweepstakes that require a contribution to enter.
Again, a reputable charity doesn't need to employ such inefficient and deceptive fundraising tactics.
4. Be careful of imposters.
Scam artists often use sound-alike names to trick you into thinking they represent a legitimate charity.
5. Hang up the phone.
Ask the fundraiser to send you written information about the charity they represent, hang up the phone and do some research on your own.
Once you feel comfortable with the charity, send the organization a check directly in the mail, thus ensuring 100% of your gift goes to the charity and not the for-profit fundraiser. (Read Charity Navigator's Tips For What To Do When A Charity Calls)
6. Make sure that your donation is tax-deductible.
Before giving a donation to any organization, make sure it is a 501(c)(3) charity.
That means the group has filed paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), registering it as a U.S. nonprofit and enabling its contributors to take a tax-deduction for their gifts.
A quick way to confirm the organization's status is to check with the Charity Navigator website.
All the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator are 501 (c) (3) entities.
7. Research the charity before you give.
Take a look at the organization's finances.
Make sure it is able to direct at least 75% of its budget on the programs and services it exists to provide.
With a million nonprofits in America, you should have no problem finding one that matches your philanthropic interests and will put your donation to good use.
8. Send your donation directly to the charity.
Never divulge your personal or credit card information to those initiating contact.
Once you've done your research, send your contribution directly to the charity you wish to support.
Don't send cash as it can be lost or stolen.
Also, you'll want to have paid by check or credit card so you have a receipt of your donation when it comes time to take the tax-deduction.
9. Tell the charity not to share your personal information.
When you send a charity a small donation- say $10 or $25- there is a high probability that the organization will then sell or trade your contact information with other charities.
The next thing you know, your mailbox is overflowing with solicitations.
Often older Americans get caught up in this vicious cycle because they respond with a small donation to each new appeal full of heartbreaking pleas and photos.
To prevent this from happening, tell the charity upfront that you do not want it to share your personal information with any other entity.
At Charity Navigator each of their charity evaluations includes an assessment of the charity's willingness to enable you to opt-out of such practices.
If you get a chance I recommend that you read "Charity Navigator's Tips For How To Stop Solicitations By Mail" on their website.
10. Use common sense
I just want to finish with three beautiful quotes about charity.
“It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving." ― Mother Teresa
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”
― Anne Frank, diary of Anne Frank
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
― John Holmes
Thanks for joining me..............................................