Experts say double check charities before you give your money to them

Making sure your money is going to the right charity

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Experts with Charity Navigator say you should research charities and the authenticity before you donate.

Charity Navigator is an online tool that helps evaluate non-profits. It is the largest in the United States. Director of Marketing Stacy Steele said on Giving Tuesday, the website saw 49% more people donating on their website compared to last year.

“What we saw this past Giving Tuesday was over $1.375 million came through our giving basket feature through our website,” Steele said. “That is 32% more than last year.”

With many people donating virtually this year, Steele said research is key.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $10,000,” Steele said. “You want to make sure it’s going into the right hands and that it’s going to be impactful in some way.”

Charity Navigator rates more than 160,000 charities nationwide. It’s free and you just have to type in the nonprofit’s name to see its rating. But Steele said there are other ways to make sure a non-profit is legitimate.

“I think the key is when you are looking for charities to donate to, first and foremost, is to make sure that this is actually a registered nonprofit by the IRS,” Steele said. “They should have an EIN number. That number is unique to every organization out there and by having that number, then you know that your donation is tax deductible.”

No non-profit will have the same EIN number, so you can also use it to make sure that your money is going to the correct charity.

“What many donors don’t realize is that some of these organizations have very similar names,” Steele said. “So the organization that you’re choosing may not be the actual organization that you intended your money to go to.”

She said be careful with how you give your money.

“Don’t give in cash,” Steele said. “Don’t give in gift cards. Don’t give in wire transfers. Pay by check or by credit card. What would be great is if you pay online. You go to the website and you are putting the information in yourself.”

Steele said it doesn’t matter if it’s a small local charity or a larger scale one, as long as you do your research.

“I would say you should choose a charity that resonates with you on a personal level,” she said.

Steele said if you accidentally gave money to a scam charity, you should contact local police, fill out a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and contact your local attorney general.

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