When you consider giving to a charity these days, you need to make it your business to do your due diligence and check out the charity on all fronts. Just because a loose group of people set up a website, start some social media pages, and offer areas to donate either online or conveniently from your mobile phone – does not a charity make!
Yes, there are scams and double yes, even an organization that has been in the news as a “charitable” group may be not as formally set up as they need to be to be a charitable organization. Case in point, it is true that anyone can set up a social media page and call themselves literally anything. Next, this group will start asking for money, with what seems to be a legitimate cause. But you always need to take the next steps to find out about any charity that you consider leaving money to in your will, or leaving money this year for a sweet tax write off. What do you need to do?
First of all, you can make a general call to the charity and look it up online. When you call, you are able to ask the important questions to whoever picks up the phone there. You can ask:
- Are you set up formally as a charitable organization?
- Do you have reports that are public from the last few years of your financial statements?
- How long has your charity been around?
- Who founded your charity?
- Who does your charity serve or help in the community?
- Do you have volunteers at your charity?
- Are you registered with the Secretary of State in my state as a legal charity?
- Are there other partners to your charity in my region?
- Does your charity support local or national political campaigns?
- How much money did your charity raise last year?
In the news, we have seen that there are some charitable-look-alikes, which grab politically charged clickbait, set up social media, and the money streams in from well-meaning people. But alas, these are not “charities.” They are just capitalizing on a name in the news, and taking in free money that is sent with the kindest of hearts, all for someone’s personal bank accounts. Now that is a new form of charity indeed – just you giving money to someone who pretends to be an organization, with a household name, where could you go wrong?
Taking money on the pretense of being a bona fide charity is wrong, but who is going to stop it? If you use your Smartphone to send off money to a “charity,” and that money is received by the group (read: not a real charitable organization, but a group of individuals, yes), then it is your fault or idea to just give some of your money away to someone’s real or fake cause. As of late, there is no law against this action on your part, and maybe not even on theirs. The moral is to research charities before giving.