The holidays are a tough time to be in need, and unfortunately there’s way too much of that going around these days. Last year the U.S. Census Bureau said that 16% of people in the States live below the poverty line and that children in 3.9 million households across America went hungry.

These are heart breaking statistics, and many of us seek out charities to donate to during the holidays. Of course, doing so is a great idea, but donors should be wary before making that commitment. Unfortunately there is no shortage of con artists running bogus charities whose only purpose is to pad their own pockets.

How do you separate trustworthy charities from the scams? Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Check with Hawai‘i’s Better Business Bureau to see if a charity has met our twenty standards for accountability. Among other things BBB reviews a charities financial health and their accountability and transparency.
  • Check with our state attorney general’s office if a charity is registered to solicit here in Hawai‘i.
    Ask for an IRS Form 990—any real charity should be happy to provide you with it. It is  the IRS form that provides detailed financial information for potential givers.
  • Don’t click on any emails asking you to send money. Con-artists use the holidays to appeal to your philanthropic side — and they like to use email to reach out to you. Don’t fall for it. If you want to donate online, go to a charity’s homepage and follow the directions on their donations page.
  • When considering supporting a cause — find the answers to these questions: What portion of the donation will benefit the charity? What location will the charity use the funds in? How do they help those in need?

Giving to those less fortunate is really what the holidays are about. Make it easier for yourself to leave your mark by doing your homework and researching the charities you want to help.

Better Business Bureau - Generations Magazine - April-May 2013