‘Tis the season to give away your stuff.
As Christmas rolls in, it’s common to see people ringing bells for charity outside of stores, or knocking on doors asking for your help with their pet causes. Phone and mail solicitations are up. You’ve got your pockets open and everybody’s hoping for some cash.
Good for you. Charity is wonderful.
I openly treat charity as the selfish act it truly is. Donating my time and money to causes I support makes me feel good about myself. I like feeling good about myself. The other reasons people give to charity are A) to make people like them, or B) to receive tax deductions. That’s it. There are 3 possible reasons to donate: to like yourself, to make others like you, or to save some tax money. I thought about adding guilt to the list, but that is covered by some blend of the first two reasons.
How can you know that the charity you are donating to is worth it? There are a ton of evil bastards out there trying to cash in on your desire to feel good. They want your money because rolling around naked in ill-gotten gains is what makes them feel good. Naked scammers sprawled across my cash isn’t a visual that makes me feel good.
Wait, you say? People use charities for cons, you ask? In 2005, The National Arthritis Association was busted for convincing people that it was somehow related to The Arthritis Foundation, when in reality, it was using the money for hookers and blow. Or something decidedly not arthritis-cure-related. If a charity sounds like something you know, but isn’t quite there, check into it before you donate.
It’s also common for scammers to run a phone campaign, pretending to be the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or United Way. Those are all good charities, but they don’t benefit from the good intentions of the victims. The scammers just want the credit card information. Once they have that, it’s off to Rio for a crazy week of xxxxxx on a xxxxxx with a xxxxxxx for xxxxxx. (Editor’s note: This is a family-friendly blog.) Don’t give out your credit card information to anyone over the phone. Ever. Tell the caller to send you something in the mail, or promise to visit their website. But don’t give them the keys to your cash.
How can you avoid funding a Nigerian coup that will surely end in the downfall of the righteous king, causing all of his heirs to email me(as the only trustworthy person in the world) to help move the nation’s fortune out of the country in exchange for a mere 10% of the loot? I mean, how can you be sure you are donating to a good organization?
The easiest way is to ask the IRS. You can call them at 877-829-5500 or visit their website at http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96136,00.html to search for charities that have actually filed with the IRS. Not all charities have filed. Some state-based nonprofits don’t bother, but you can check with your Secretary of State to verify their status.
Always pay by check or credit card. Cash is untraceable. If a charity turns out to be a scam, leaving a trail makes it easier to prosecute.
Don’t give in to the guilt-tactics. If a charity is worth giving to today, it will be worth it tomorrow, too. There’s no rush. If the solicitor is trying to rush you, it’s probably a scam.
Remember, it’s your money. Take care of it.
What are your favorite charities?
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