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At the peak of the holiday season, many Americans find themselves overcome by a spirit of generosity and goodwill. Many people go beyond finding the perfect gift for friends and family and give their time or money to a charitable organization, seeking to make the holidays a little better for those worse off than themselves.
But with thousands upon thousands of charities to choose from, how we do ensure our dollars are truly going to the best possible cause?
It may seem obvious, but it’s best not to hand your credit card info to an anonymous organization soliciting your aid. The IRS has little regulatory power over most charitable organizations since they don’t typically pay taxes. As a result, it’s all too easy to be defrauded.
“Never give a gift where you didn’t initiate the communication,” advises Tim Meisenheimer, a certified financial planner. Calls can be a red flag, as charities who employ telemarketers are much less likely to receive the entirety of your donation. If you’re donating online, he also advises you to check that there’s a “https” at the beginning of the URL, which indicates a secure connection.
But the best way to avoid shady scammers is to research the charity before you hand over your cash. One helpful resource is CharityNavigator.org, a charity-screening website where you can scrutinize a charity’s rating, spending habits, category, and much more. When examining a charity, they look for all kinds of red flags, such as if they spend more than one-third of their budget on administrative costs or if they aren’t forthcoming about their operations and expenditures. If you’re unsure of where to donate, check out their list of “Charities With Perfect Scores.”
If you want to provide humanitarian aid, Direct Relief (DirectRelief.org) is a wellknown charity, and it has a perfect rating of 100 on Charity Navigator. They provide medical treatment in resource-poor communities. If you’re more inclined to protect the environment, check out The Conservation Fund (ConservationFund.org), which seeks to preserve natural resources while fostering economic development in America. Education-minded donors should look up Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO-usa.org), another organization with a perfect 100 from Charity Navigator. They strive to provide robust education for underserved communities. There are thousands of excellent charities to donate to, and many of them are probably right in your backyard