Giving to charity? Read this first.

Michigan

With 2018 winding down the race to make charitable donations before the new year is intensifying.

This also is a good time for some reminders about charitable giving and what to watch out for before you make your gift.

There is an assumption that every donation to a charity is tax deductible.  Donations to public safety groups, such as firefighter or law enforcement organizations, may not qualify for tax deductions.  An online tool you can use to check if your donations to a particular organization are tax deductible is the Internal Revenue Service’s “Select Check“.  

BOGUS CHARITIES MIGHT:

  • Send you bills or invoices even though you never pledged money to that particular organization
  • Be evasive or vague when asked specific questions about the charity and how the money is used
  • Not give you any time to reconsider your pledge and insist on collecting money immediately
  • Make up a charity name that closely resembles a legitimate, better;known charity
  • Use emotional or high-pressure tactics to force you into a quick decision or feel guilty about not giving
  • Refuse to answer about where your money would go or how to find more information about the charity

DO YOUR RESEARCH

In addition to using the IRS tools, there are a number of online resources you can use to check the rating or a particular charitable group.  One such service is Charity Navigator.  Charities are rated on IRS tax status, revenue, length of operation, location, public support and how expenses are handled. You can also check an organization’s status online at the Michigan Attorney General’s office Charity Search. Do not assume that if a particular organization is not listed that it is suspicious.  Some religious charities, hospitals and schools are not required to register.

TELEMARKETERS

According to the Michigan Attorney General Consumer Protection Division, there are some things to remember if you get calls from telemarketers.  Often these telemarketers are professional fundraisers and some can keep as much as 90% of the money donated.  If you get an unsolicited call you should be skeptical.  You don’t really know who is on the other end of the call.  The AG’s office also says you should never give out payment information over the phone.  Tell them you will call back after you’ve done some research.  If they persist, hang up. If you would like telemarketers to stop calling, tell them to remove them from their calling list.  If they call back after that, contact the Attorney General.

BEFORE YOU GIVE

You’re close to writing your check but there are still some precautions you should take.  You have the right to demand information in writing from the public safety organization or charity, especially financial information.  You should also contact the organization directly confirm where and how your money will be used.  It’s your money. Be informed before you give.

Learn the facts before you donate.  Most charities are doing good work and fill an important need in society.  There will always be the “bad apples” that will try to scam donations.  With a little research you can be an informed, generous donor.

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