The New York attorney general offered tips on giving wisely during the holiday season.
“The holidays are a time for giving. New Yorkers always give generously to charity – and should know how their charitable dollars are being spent,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “I encourage all New Yorkers who plan on giving to follow our tips to ensure their generosity is benefiting reputable organizations.”
Schneiderman offered the following tips for New Yorkers making charitable donations:
- Take Time To Research The Charity. Make sure you are familiar with the organization, its mission, and its effectiveness before giving. If you receive a telemarketing appeal, always ask for information in writing– and be wary if a charity will not provide information about its programs and finances. Any legitimate organization will be happy to send you information.
- Consult the Charities Bureau’s Registry – www.charitiesnys.com. Find out if a charity is registered, and learn more about its mission and finances.
- Donate Online Safely. Find out whether the charity has authorized the campaign and if your contribution is tax deductible. Many online platforms that host groups and individuals soliciting for causes do not vet those who use their service. If you are donating via an online platform that hosts charitable campaigns, use its “Contact Us” link to find out about fees and other policies.
- Know Where Your Money Will Go. Find out from the charity what it will do with your money. Review its financial reports to see how it spends donations. Review Pennies for Charity – the New York Attorney General’s annual report of campaigns by professional fundraisers; go to the Pennies for Charity database on www.CharitiesNYS.com to see if the charity employs a fundraiser and, if so, how much it spends on fundraising costs and how much raised goes to its programs.
- Don’t Be Pressured by Telemarketers. If you receive a telephone call asking you to contribute to a charity, you have the right to hang up. Ask if the caller is a professional solicitor and is being paid to make the call. New York law requires the telemarketer to give you that information as part of the solicitation.
- If you choose to consider the caller’s request, ask how much of your donation will go to charity and how much will be used to pay fundraising costs. Many telemarketing companies receive most of the money they raise.
- Be wary of claims such as “all proceeds will go to charity.” Telemarketers are required to respond truthfully to your questions.
- Don’t fall for pressure tactics such as repeated phone calls or threats. Always remember you have the right to say no to any charitable request.
- Ask To Be Put On A ‘Do Not Call’ List. It is not illegal for telemarketers for charities to call telephone numbers on the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry, but consumers can stop such calls by telling telemarketers not to call them on behalf of specific charities. Telemarketers are required to honor such requests. You may also ask a charity to take you off its solicitation list.
- Be Wary of Deceptive Tactics and Emotional Appeals. Watch out for charities with names that resemble those of prominent or established organizations. Some charities use names similar to well-known charities in order to confuse donors. Be wary of emotional appeals that talk about problems, but are vague on how donations will be spent.
- Don’t Disclose Personal Information. Never give your social security number or other personal information in response to a charitable solicitation. Never give out credit card information over the phone or to an organization you are not familiar with.
- If Donating Online or Via Text, Donate Securely. Always make sure that you are using secure methods of payment. When donating online, make sure the website is secure and includes ‘https’ in the web address. Before hitting “Send” on a text donation, check the charity’s website or call the charity to make sure it has authorized contributions by text message. Some text solicitations are scams. Remember that donations by text may not reach the charity until after a phone bill is paid; contributions made directly to a charity can reach it faster.
- Be Careful With Crowdfunding Appeals. Only give when you know the individuals who are conducting the appeal and you are confident that your contribution will reach the charity.
- Never Give Cash. Give your contribution by check made payable to the charity.
The following websites provide information that help to evaluate charities’ general performance:
- Charity Navigator – www.charitynavigator.org
- CharityWatch – www.charitywatch.org
- Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance – www.bbb.org
- GuideStar – www.guidestar.org
If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a scam is taking place, please email the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-416-8401.