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Protect yourself: 6 things to know before giving to charity

Posted on Jun 18, 2013 ( comments)

Not all charities claiming to help sick children are really helping sick children. That's the disturbing bottom line in a new report from CNN, the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

You may have heard talk of ‘America’s worst charities’ in the news this week, after the special report brought to light 50 nonprofits that claim to raise millions of dollars each year for popular causes, when in reality a very small percentage of the donations they receive goes directly to the needy.

But luckily for would-be donors, there are legitimate places to donate – if you know where to look.

Here are some simple things you can do to ensure that your donations are going where you intend them:

  • Look for a charitable cause that speaks to you, and that helps people right in your own community, such as Tree House: a Place for Families or BRIDGES: A Center for Grieving Children. This way you know exactly where your money is going.
  • If you receive a phone call out of the blue, ask for the charity’s name. Many charities (both reputable and less savory) have a mission and purpose that sound similar to others. Kids Wish is not the same as Make a Wish, but they sound nearly identical. ASK - don’t assume you know which charity is contacting you.
  • You don’t have to make a decision right then. Don’t feel pressured. Say you don’t give over the phone and ask to have information mailed to you.
  • Educate yourself on the charity. Do an online search for the charity without using the web address provided to you. This will not only direct you to their website, but can also help identify if others have had negative experiences or been scammed.
  • Map it! Sounds simple enough, plug the charity’s address online and use “satellite” view to see where it is. Is it in an industrial area, a house in a neighborhood, high rise downtown? Use the charity’s PHYSICAL address not mailing address. If you can’t find the physical address in any information they sent you or online, call them and ask for it, a legit charity should have no problem letting you know where their office is located.
  • Contact the IRS and find out about the charity's Exempt Status. You can do this online or by phone 1-800-829-1040. If you talk to the IRS directly ask questions, how long has the charity held their status, if it’s been revoked, or if there are any complaints against the charity?
  • If it doesn't feel right, don’t give. It may be a perfectly reputable organization, or it could be contender for “The Worst Charities in America” list. Bottom line: it’s better to be safe than scammed.

The Foundations of MultiCare, which include the Good Samaritan Foundation, Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation, and the MultiCare Health Foundation, are all 501(c)3 non-profits, and the South King Health Foundation will be on board shortly. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible and because of the way our Foundations are organized, 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the program or fund you designate.

With your help and support, the Foundations of MultiCare are able to serve the communities in the South King and South Sound regions. Some ways in which donations are put to use: free or reduced cost mammograms, hospital care for children who are uninsured and whose families cannot afford to pay, or the Where the Need is Greatest Fund, which allows funds to be allocated based on the ever changing needs in health care. For more information on the Foundations of MultiCare please visit our website or call our office at 253.403.1264.

About The Author

Emily Lavely-Holloway, Annual Giving Coordinator, Foundations of MultiCare
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