It’s the time of year when many open their pocketbooks a little wider and give to charitable organizations a lot more freely.
But in a world of intricate scams and disreputable people trying to make a fast buck off your good intentions, how do you choose where to donate those hard earned dollars?
Jill Atkinson, director of communications for the Better Business Bureau of the Maritime Provinces, has a few tips to help ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
“Scam artists use names that are very close to that of an actual legitimate charity so be aware of that... It might not be legitimate but sounds very much like it,” she said.
The Better Business Bureau has received calls from consumers who get calls from supposed charities claiming the consumer donated generously the year before. The caller will encourage the consumer to give the same amount and will actively push for a credit card number.
“The other thing is with any charity, whether you’re familiar with it or not, you can ask for copies of their financial records. We suggest at least 65 per cent of your donation should go to help the cause and not be used for administration,” Atkinson explained.
“Some charities use third parties for fundraising. We encourage you to give to the charity directly rather than through solicitation.”
Atkinson said some consumers also aren’t aware of the difference between a charity and a non-profit organizations. Charities are registered with the Canada Revenue Agency and are the only ones able to provide tax receipts.
If you want to check out a registered charity and get details on the organization’s financial activities, the information is easily accessible online at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html .
“One other thing we would suggest is about door to door solicitation, which happens a lot at this time of year it seems,” Atkinson said. “Don’t be persuaded to give right away. If you’re not familiar with the charity, ask for written information so you can take the time to read it over.”
If you’re writing a cheque Atkinson advises you make certain it’s payable to the charity itself and not the individual collecting funds. Look for identification as well.
“Overall we’d say don’t ever be persuaded, be aware of lookalike name charities, and if they call and say you’ve pledged before and you know you haven’t, don’t fall into that scam,” she said.
“We have heard of consumers having someone say ‘We’ll come right away to collect the money.’ A legitimate charity would be glad of the money whenever it was received.”