Giving Tuesday: Tips on Choosing A Charity to Support

December 2, 2013 - Serving Seniors

December 3rd is Giving Tuesday, a worldwide effort to raise awareness and motivate action for the common good.  But it’s also prime time for scammers and cyber criminals to capitalize on the generosity of the public, especially during natural disaster events and set up fake charity sites and pocket the donations.

Here are a few TIPS on how to choose a legitimate organization and avoid being scammed. 

  • Do your research! Research an organization before you Giving Tuesdaydonate. There are a variety of online resources that provide free access to comprehensive reports about non-profit organizations. Start with a visit to California Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts (, Guidestar ( and Charity Navigator ( Plus, go to the organization’s website and really get a good understanding of what the charity does and who benefits from your donation.
  • Ask questions. Real charities are able to tell you how they use their donations and what portion of your contribution will go directly to the group they are trying to help. Ideally, at least 85 cents of every dollar raised should go directly to programs and services of the charitable organization, with the minimal amount remaining to underwrite things like rent, utilities and other operational expenses. Also, ask them for a 990 tax form. If they cannot give you this information – or hesitate for any reason in providing the document — don’t give them your money.
  • Do not send to a P.O. Box. Make sure the organization has an actual street address, where you can go and see the charity in action at anytime. Also, do not send cash and do not wire money.
  • Take precaution when donating online. Beware of phony websites and donate though a website that is secure by looking for “https” not “http.” Also, do not open unsolicited e-mail appeals because they can be an attempt to attain important personal information.
  • Ask for a tour. Or even better just show up unannounced. A reputable charity would be delighted to give you a tour on the spot.
  • There should be no hard sell. Walk away from anyone who says you must donate today or offers to come by your house to pick up a check.  A reputable charity will be delighted to accept a gift today, next week, next month or even next year.

To learn more about choosing a charity, watch Paul Downey’s interview on KUSI.

Why this is Important

San Diego was rated the most philanthropic by Charity Navigator in June 2013, so we know that residents have a kind heart. Often during this time of year, con artists take advantage of the generosity of San Diegans over the phone, via the mail, in person and online. These individuals take the hard-earned money for themselves, rather than for reputable and legitimate non-profit organizations that serve the most vulnerable in our community.

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