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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Better Business Bureau is warning North Texans to be on the lookout for charity ‘impostors’.
“You want to make sure you know exactly where your money is going,” said Phylissa Landix with the Dallas BBB. “So if something sounds like a charity you’ve heard of, still go and do a little bit of research before you give them money.”
Here are the top five things you need to know before you give to a charity.
- Check out the ratings
Each of these watchdog websites rate national charities based on how they spend their money, how they protect donor privacy, and how they govern themselves.
The sites don’t always agree so it’s a good idea to check all three.
- Look-up the efficiency numbers
When giving perhaps the most important number you’ll want to know is how much of your money actually goes towards the charity’s programs. The best charities will spend 70% or more of its money directly towards its programs. The website GuideStar uses IRS forms to come up with how much a charity spends on its programs and how much spends on administrative and fundraising expenses.
- Beware of similar sounding names
For example, the Coalition Against Breast Cancer sounds a lot like the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund. But while the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund has an “A” rating, the Coalition Against Breast Cancer had an “F” before it was eventually shut-down. Don’t be fooled, pay close attention to the name.
- Know if your gift is tax-deductible
Not all gifts are tax-deductible. The IRS requires donations be made to qualified organizations. The easiest way to find out of a charity meets those IRS standards is to make sure you get a receipt with the charity’s tax ID number on it.
Also, it’s important to know if you receive some kind of merchandise in conjunction with donation, the IRS only allows you to deduct the amount above the value of your item.
- Never donate over the phone
In most cases the telemarketer soliciting donations gets a cut for every dollar they collect. So ask how much of your donation is going to the charity and how much is going to the professional telemarketing firm. Experts say you’re better off contacting the charity directly. That way you know where your money is going.
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