Making End of Year Donations? Do Your Homework First

( – Experts are warning donors about the potential pitfalls of giving to charities and offering advice on how best to give generously. Charitable gifts increase significantly around the Christmas period, and last year, in November and December, people donated a staggering $326.87 billion, accounting for 67% of the 2022 total.

Laurie Styron, executive director of Charity Watch, has offered advice to the 68% of Americans who say they intend to donate the same amount this Christmas that they did last year and the 17% who say they will increase their donation. The first piece of advice Styron offers is to always research the intended recipients. Good charities, she said, do not use high-pressure tactics, so that is a warning sign.

Secondly, she urges donors to vet the recipient and advises that this can be done via various watchdogs such as Charity Watch, Guide Star, and Charity Navigator. Most nonprofit groups, including religious groups, can also be investigated using an IRS tool that allows donors to ensure a recipient group is tax-exempt. The tool is found on the IRS website.

Styron, furthermore, says it’s best to give directly to charities and avoid schemes or individuals operating on an organization’s behalf. “Even if it’s a legitimate middle person or donation processor, they might be taking significant administrative or processing fees,” she said.

“Scammie charities” result when people or groups take the name of a recognized charitable organization and change the name slightly, duping people into believing they are donating to a known body.

Charity Watch has an extensive search tool that permits users to seek advice on a specific charity; it provides information on how much executives are paid and how much money is used for purposes beyond the charitable. The site offers ratings for the best organizations and categorizes these into groups that care for animals or for people suffering from specified illnesses or misfortunes. Its top-rated charities are those that spend 75% of their funding on a good cause.

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