The Christmas season causes many of us to feel thankful for family and friends. We want others to experience a similar joyful holiday time and feel inclined to help those in need by contributing financially to their cause. The question is—which charity to choose? Every community features dozens of apparent worthy causes. An even more important question to address may be: which charities are credible and which are perhaps less than desirable in their handling of donations?
Though one’s heart may pick a cause, it’s prudent to learn how to identify efficient and ethical charities that show results.
Which Charity is Right For You?
Chris Moore, certified financial planner and owner of Moore & Associates in Fort Wayne, advises to begin responsible holiday giving by looking internally. “When choosing a charity for a financial donation, identify your passion in life. If it is children, then a contribution to an organization that helps children would be feasible. If you attend a church, check with the pastor to see if a specific charity could use help at Christmas.” Moore further advises to always ask for the organization’s tax identification number, then go to www.IRS.gov and search for the business in the state where it does business.
“If it is a legitimate operation, you will find the tax identification number and name of the business,” he said. “Most people want to know where their money is going.”
The Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana offers information at its website (www.BBB.org) about the integrity of local businesses. “We send charity questionnaires to local businesses and organizations,” said Amy Kill, vice president of sales and marketing at BBB. “This enables them to provide information about their board of directors and finances, as well as a copy of their most recent 501c3 form.”
The answers, Kill added, are posted on its website according to 20 standards listed by Wise Giving Alliance, a national extension of the BBB. “Wise Giving Alliance filters national charities by breaking down their finances and listing their services so consumers can know they are accredited,” she said. The BBB serves 23 counties in northern Indiana.
“The Christmas holidays are always our biggest time of the year for questions about charities,” said Kill. “We work with local charities by posting a holiday page at our website that displays a list of those that are accredited. The businesses are encouraged to post our charity seal on their websites. If someone clicks on it, it takes them to their record at our site.”
For those who don’t have access to a computer the staff of the BBB is glad to assist with information by phone.
Other hints for charitable giving:
Stick to a budget.
It’s easy to be persuaded to give to several deserving causes. Decide at the beginning of the season the amount of contribution that fits the household budget. Record each contribution and stick to the plan!
Examine last year’s charitable investments.
Review charities supported in past years. If a charity can’t (or won’t) provide information of results from the past year, replace it with one that will.
Good decision-making can be looked at as the process used when conducting a major purchase like a home. Most people recognize the value of having an appraiser inspect a house before the purchase. Instill a sense of calm and well-being by knowing the charitable dollars given from the heart are being used wisely.
Moore & Associates, Fort Wayne, 260.436.8884, christophermooreadvisor.com