James Beckum, founder of the Beckum-Stapleton Little League baseball organization holds a check for $32,709 he received from the Potawatomi Bingo Casino Miracle on Canal Street charities. The grant was one of 30 the Potawatomi charities awarded. The charity raised nearly $1 million in 2012. (photo by Yvonne Kemp)
“Giving Tuesday is a great way to balance the excesses of the long weekend dedicated to eating and shopping,” said Randall Hoth, Wisconsin BBB president/CEO. “But it’s important for donors to do a little homework first to make sure they are comfortable with each charity they support, not only its mission but also how well it follows guidelines for financial management, transparency and leadership.”
BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips:
1 . Consider more than finances.
How much money a charity spends on the actual cause – as compared to how much goes toward fundraising and administration – is an important factor, but it’s not the whole story. A charity with impressive financial ratios could have other significant problems such as insufficient transparency, inadequate board activity and inaccurate appeals.
2. Research before you give.
Even good friends may not have fully researched the charities they endorse, so don’t just take their word for it. Expertise is available. Go to give.org to see if a national charity meets the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. Visit bbb.org for information on local charities.
3. Be wary of high-pressure, emotional pitches.
Giving on the spot is never necessary, no matter how hard a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor pushes it. The charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.
4. Verify donated items are needed.
Worn out, unusable or unwanted donated goods cost charities millions of dollars each year because the organization has to bear the cost of tossing the unacceptable donation. If you have questions about an item’s acceptability, call the charity and ask.
5. Confirm the charity’s identity.
With so many charities in existence, their names can blur in a donor’s mind and similar-sounding organizations are common. Be sure you know which charity you’re supporting and that it’s not a case of mistaken identity.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance also has suggestions for businesses that engage in cause-related marketing promotions that announce a consumer purchase will help a charity. The business should be sure to (a) have a written agreement with the charity that authorized this use, and (b) disclose in promotions the actual or anticipated amount of the consumer purchase that will benefit the charity.
Milwaukee, Wis. — Hurricane Isaac made its second landfall early Wednesday morning, continuing to thrash Louisiana with harsh winds, rain and flooding. While Isaac continues its destructive path, charities may soon begin soliciting for donations to support the relief efforts. With many options available for donors to consider, Better Business Bureau offer tips for donors looking to assist in the relief efforts.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability were developed to assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to foster public confidence in charitable organizations. The standards seek to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations and to advance support of philanthropy.
Before giving your donation, BBB recommends the following:
Research the organization. Check BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org to get reports on how national charities measure up to BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Confirm the organization is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) and make sure you’re satisfied with the programs and how the money is distributed. According to BBB’s Standards for Charity Accountability:
– At least 65 percent of total expenses should be spent on program activities
– No more than 35 percent of related contributions can be spent on fundraising
– For local charities, ask for an annual report or a 990 IRS form to see a breakdown of where the money is allocated.
Be wary of imitations. Don’t be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization.
Avoid giving personal information over the phone. Since nonprofits are not required to use the “Do Not Call” list, you could receive a phone call asking for a donation. Avoid giving your personal information over the phone.
Be cautious of online or text message solicitations. Online giving can be very convenient, but avoid donating in response to unexpected text messages or emails that claim to link to a relief organization. Scam organizations with official looking names can be created overnight. If you want to give to a charity involved in the relief efforts, go directly to that charity’s website.
Avoid giving to charities that:
Use high pressure solicitations. A legitimate charity will be glad to give you the time needed to fully research its program.
Offer prizes. Most honest charities do not try to entice you to give by telling you that you have won a prize.
Steer you away from mailing a donation. Dishonest individuals try and avoid doing anything through the U.S. mail to avoid federal prosecution under postal statutes.
For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Or, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.