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Consumer Charity Checklist: Tips for Wise Giving

  • Ask the caller if they are a paid solicitor or a member/volunteer of the organization. If they are a paid solicitor, ask what percentage of the donation will be kept by the paid fund-raiser. If not comfortable with this amount, either send a check directly to the charity or donate to a different charity. Sometimes the paid solicitor will receive most of the money donated to the charity.

  • Be wary of appeals that tug at heart strings, especially pleas involving patriotism and current events. Consumers may visit the Department of Defense website to find out about military relief societies that provide assistance to U.S. Service members and their families. The Department does not endorse any specific war-related charity,

  • Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. It is okay to check the information and then donate once the facts are known. A legitimate charity or fund raiser will not pressure a consumer for a donation on the spot. Be wary of charities offering to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.

  • Call the charity itself to find out if it is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If the telemarketer claims that the charity will support local organizations, call the local groups to verify that the local group is actually receiving money from the charity. Sometimes fraudulent solicitations occur when telemarketers claim to be getting donations for local police or fire departments. It is better to check out such representations than for the money to be going into someone's pocket.

  • Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you do not remember making. Be on the alert for invoices claiming a pledge if unsure of making that pledge since some unscrupulous solicitors use this approach to get money.

  • Ask how the donation will be distributed. It is wise to ask specifically whether the money will go to the program, to cover the charity's administrative costs, or to cover the professional fundraiser's fees.

  • Avoid cash gifts which can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it is best to give donations by check. Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that the donation is tax deductible.

  • Understand that contributions to a "tax exempt" organization are not necessarily tax deductible.

  • Be cautious about giving out credit card numbers or other personal or confidential information over the telephone.

Please do not be discouraged from giving as there are lots of legitimate and worthy charities out there that help lots of needy people with donations. This Office wants consumers to make informed choices when it comes to contributing hard-earned money. Consumers can access more information about Tennessee charity groups on the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming website.