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Giving To Charity This Holiday Season: Avoid Charity Scams

Nov 11, 2007
Charitable contributions in the United States have become increasingly popular. Peak contribution hits during the holiday season. While the majority of charities legitimately solicit donations, scam artists are on the rise. Here are some tips on how to avoid charity scams.

Charitable contributions have accounted for at least 2% of the GDP during the last four decades. As of 2001, more than 80% of charitable contributions came from individuals and not companies.

In 2005, Americans willingly gave $1.3 million for tsunami relief as well at $2.2 billion for hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The same amount of contributions were collected shortly following the terrorist attacks on September 11th.

Charities market to Americans in a variety of ways. However some are more affective than others. During a twelve month period from 2002-2003, 42% of charitable donations received came as a result of direct mailings. Workplace campaigns came in second with 33% and face-to-face requests 32%. Over the phone requests yielded 23% of donations and 14% gave due to TV advertisements. Online requests seemed the least affective with only 3% of donations coming from this venue.

The peak season for charitable contributions occurs during the holidays. This year, over a million and a half non-profit organizations will solicit donations.
According to Charity Navigator, a non-profit organization that evaluates charities, nearly half of the charitable contributions made each year come in the weeks before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Unfortunately, the prevalence of charity scams has also risen in the last few years. Here are a few tips to avoid charitable misgivings:

Always give contributions by check, not cash, and never make checks payable to individuals, only to organizations.

Keep a record of all your donations.

Authenticate out all organization to which you donate with the Better Business Bureau and your local charity registration office.

Make sure direct mailings identify the charity while clearly defining the program. Appeals that pull at heartstrings but say nothing of the charity should be regarded as suspicious.

Always confirm the charity's name and address, whether or not the contribution is tax deductible, if the charity is licensed by the local authorities and how much of your contribution goes to support the organization's expenses (this should be no more than half).

When making your charitable contribution, you may want to take a look at Forbes.com and their list of charities ranked by charitable contribution. These charities use very small amounts of their contributions to run their organization, usually less than 10%. The list can also be sorted by total contribution amount, fund raising efficiency, and donor dependency.

Here are the top ten charities according to charitable contributions:

1. Brother's Brother Foundation (BBF): A Pittsburg based international charity bringing medical supplies, textbooks, food, seeds and other supplies to people in over 120 countries.

2. Children' s Hunger Fund: Uses ministry, company and individual donations to help prevent hunger for children throughout the world.

3. Gifts in Kind International: Brings donors' resources together in order to restore communities in need. Receives donations from companies ranging from Fortune 100 to small businesses and distributes these contributions to 150,000 charities worldwide.

4. King Benevolent Association: A Christian organization helping elderly widows, feeding the hungry and providing medical care and supplies to the sick.

5. AmeriCares: Delivers medicine, relief supplies and health care to those in need through partnerships.

6. Christian Aid Ministries: An Ohio based organization bringing help to the poor in the world.

7. Christian Appalachia Project: A Christian organization working to help those living in the rural areas near the Appalachian Mountains.

8. Christian Broadcasting Network: A Christian television station used to spread the message of the Bible.

9. Christian Children's Fund: Helps find the roots of poverty and provides means of relief as well as programs leading to self-sufficiency.

10. Christian Foundation of Children and Aging: Provide assistance to the needy children and aged of the world, giving them dignity and life.

American charity is a wonderful spirit. Many friends and family members even eschew traditional wrapped presents for donation giving. Just double check that cause before you write the check!
About the Author
Charlotte Buelow is a contributing business writer for Goliath. Goliath is one of the Internet's largest collections of business research, news and information. Learn more about
Goliath .
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