By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Helping others is as much a part of the holiday season as decorating our homes, eating great food and singing Christmas carols. Many wonderful organizations conduct special fund-raising drives during the holidays to provide support for those in need.
Unfortunately, scam artists too often take advantage of the giving spirit of the holidays to find ways to get your generous donations into their pockets instead of a worthy cause.
Make sure your donations go to support authentic charitable organizations by making a plan before you give. Here are some tips to help you make those plans:
- Control your donations. Instead of waiting for a solicitation to come by phone, mail or email, decide ahead of time what organizations you want to support and contact them directly.
- Support local, established charities. While there are many large, international organizations that do great work, your donations can often have a greater impact when they support a cause close to your community, where you can see the results of your donations.
- Do your homework. Research the organizations you are considering supporting. Find out how much of your donation goes to support the charitable work of the organization and how much goes to fundraising and overhead expenses.
- Make sure the charity is properly registered to solicit donations in Kansas. Most charities soliciting in Kansas are required to register with the Secretary of State’s office. You can check to see if the charity is registered by visiting www.kscharitycheck.org. Please note, many religious organizations are not required to register.
- Ask if your donation is tax deductible. Not all donations to charities are tax deductible. You can check a charity’s status with the IRS at www.irs.gov. When in doubt, double-check with your tax preparer before assuming a donation will be tax deductible.
- Document your donation. Make the donation by credit card or check – not cash. If you pay by check, make the check payable directly to the organization, not to the fundraiser soliciting the donation. Ask for a receipt to show the amount of the donation and if you specified your donation toward a specific project.
If you suspect a charity scam or fraud, you can file a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division online at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or by calling (800) 432-2310. You can also visit our website for more safe giving tips to help you stay safe this holiday season.
Photo credit: Scott Davidson