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How to Research a Charity Before You Give

Giving to a charity is a great way to help someone in need, but you want to know the donation will reach those you intend it to. Before you donate, it's your job to find a trustworthy charity that does the most good. If you’re looking to give, here is how to research before you donate anything.

Look out for Scams.
Avoiding scams is tricky when it comes to giving anything to a charity. Scams seem ubiquitous and impossible to avoid. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to avoid getting conned. First of all, don’t give money to a charity that refuses to give any information about itself or provide you with proof of contribution. You should also be wary of charities with names similar to larger, better-known organizations.

The charity should refrain from using pressure to make you donate, such as not allowing you time to think about your donation. If it requests that you send money in cash, wire money, or offers to send an overnight service to collect immediately, then you’re looking at a scam. Finally, charities never guarantee sweepstakes winnings for contributing, as this practice is against the law.

Check with the Better Business Bureau.
Did you know that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a website dedicated to helping you donate to only the most reputable of charities? Give.org is a user-friendly website that allows you to search any charity in the United States. If the charity is accredited by the BBB, the site displays the address of the company, when the last report was issued and expired, and more.

Give.org is run by the BBB, so it also informs you of complaints filed against any accredited organizations you search. If you’re curious about how Give evaluates charities, you can read about it here.

Go to Charity Navigator.
Charity Navigator is an excellent site to help you find the perfect charity to give to as it has over 8,000 organizations listed. It has more than 11 categories involving animals, arts and culture, education, environment, health, and much more. After you choose a category, it’s further broken down into subcategories. For example, the "Animals" category then breaks down into animal rights, wildlife conservation, or zoos and aquariums. 

Furthermore, Charity Navigator helps you determine whether a charity is reputable. You can see accountability and income information, mission statements, and scores of other info on each organization to help you learn more. Finally, you can also donate to your chosen charity right through the Charity Navigator website.
 
Visit Charity Watch.
Charity Watch is a pay service of $50 per year that helps you find only the most trustworthy organizations out there. The website focuses on making things easy for you by giving you an A+ to F rating for a quick overview of a charity’s reputation. Along with this rating, Charity Watch gives you any financial information available. This site displays tax filings, fundraising contacts, fundraising ratios, government support, and much more.

If you’re not sure which charity is right for you, you can use Charity Watch to view the top-rated organizations without paying the $50 fee. While the only information you receive is the A+ through F rating, this grade is more than enough to help you pick something that is right for you. You can choose to donate based on the 38 different categories listed on the site.

Check out the Charity Checklist.
Even if you’ve chosen a charity through one of these websites, you should consider running it through “Charity Checklist.” The checklist is a list of things a charity should have or do according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Some items on the checklist include asking for the exact name and address of the organization so you can do an internet search and never giving cash. This list assures that you’ll only give to reputable charities.

Last Updated: February 16, 2016