How To Find Out If A Charity Is Legit Before Donating On Giving Tuesday

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday might be verging on holiday status for many people around the world, but there's another important day during the holiday season that deserves your attention. Giving Tuesday takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving weekend, and encourages people to turn their attention away from their own wants and needs, and towards the needs of others. But before you partake in such an impactful day, you should know how to find out if a charity is legit to begin with.

When you're considering donating to a charity, you should first confirm whether they're tax exempt or not. The IRS Nonprofit Charities Database helps you determine whether a charity is tax exempt, and therefore able to receive tax-deductible contributions. It's worth remembering that just because an organization bills itself as a "nonprofit," that doesn't mean it's tax exempt. Though there are plenty of organizations under either label that are worthy of your donations, you still need to know where they stand, tax-wise, for your own records, and for you to understand how they allocate their funds. While the database lets you know whether a non-profit charity is, in fact, non-profit, it doesn't guarantee that the charity in question is properly allocating its funds, or that it's effective towards the given end.

The Federal Trade Commission suggests the following sites that help you research charities to find out if they're properly allocating funds: BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or GuideStar.

Of course, just because a charity is allotting funds towards administrational purposes doesn't mean that it's inefficient, corrupt, or otherwise undeserving of your donation. For that reason, the FTC suggests you deploy another strategy for ensuring a charity is legit, beyond just researching their financial breakdowns. This one is pretty simple: you can find charities for the issue you care about by googling "charities for [insert issue here]."

Once you find a charity or two that focuses on the given issue, the FTC suggests you do two things: first, check to see how specific the charity is on its website, regarding how specifically it explains how donations are used to address the given problem. The more specific the charity is, the better. And secondly, you should take the charity's name and google it alongside phrases like "complaints" or "red flags." This way, you'll see if the organization has gotten into hot water in the past.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Giving Tuesday, though an incredible endeavor, does not signify anything special for how charities receive or allocate funds. You can and should donate to a charity on any other day of the year, too — and if a charity is pressuring you (via social media, email marketing, or otherwise) to give on Tuesday in particular, then it might be a sign that something's not quite right.

It's also worth double-checking that the organization reaching out to you is an actual charity, and not just an organization seeking donations. Again, you can confirm the status of a charity by running the name through the IRS Charities Database.

At the end of the day, you should treat any charity you want to donate to like a job you're considering interviewing for: research the organization itself and follow up on any information that concerns you. You should also feel totally comfortable contacting any charity and asking all of the questions you have, like where your donation will go, exactly, or if you get a tax deduction for donating. And if you're looking for donation ideas, consider checking out this roundup of ways to give back this Giving Tuesday.