Donor Tips for Giving Wisely
- Don't be fooled by a name. Some organizations use sympathetic sounding names, or names that closely resemble those of well-established, respected charities.
- Request printed materials prior to making a donation. Valid organizations are happy to send information and share their program goals and accomplishments.
- Don't give in to high-pressure "hardball" appeals demanding an instant commitment. A reputable charity is willing to give you time to make up your mind.
More Donor Tips for Giving Wisely
- Never give your credit card number or bank account information to a telephone solicitor and don't pay by cash. Pay by check and make it payable to the charity, not the fundraiser.
- Ask how much of your contribution will go to the charity and confirm this information with the Charities Program, which collects self-reported financial information from registered charities.
- Verify charities' claims whenever possible. If they are local, pay them a visit. Ask for a copy of the federal informational return the charity files with the IRS (Form 990); the charities are required by law to make them available to the public upon request.
- Be wary of organizations that offer to send a courier to collect your cash/check contribution immediately. It is illegal for couriers to pick up contributions at your door unless it's a non-cash item.
- If you're unsure about the person that contacted you, call the intended recipient of the charitable donation to determine if they're aware of the fundraising activity and have authorized use of their name.
- Beware of unsolicited email. Instead, go directly to the organization's website or call to make donations.
- If you ever feel uncomfortable, simply say “No thank you,” and hang up!
Call the Charities Program at 1-800-332-4483 to verify if the charity or fundraiser is registered to fundraise in Washington State. You may also verify online by searching the charities online database and review additional information provided by the organization.
Take the time to seek the information that may be important to you and will help in your decision making process. The organization has contacted you, asking you to donate your hard-earned money. You will learn a lot about the organization simply by how they respond to your questions. An organization should be more than willing to take the time to answer your questions. Take notes and follow up by utilizing the many resources available to verify the information they have provided.
OTHER QUALITIES TO CONSIDER WHEN LOOKING AT A CHARITY
- Is the charity effective in achieving its stated mission?
- Is the charity spending its funds sensibly, honestly and according to the statements made in its fundraising appeals?
- Are the solicitation and informational materials of the charity accurate, truthful and not misleading?
- Is the charity's board of director active, independent and free of self-dealing?
Other Tips and Cautions
In Washington, an individual asking for a charitable contribution MUST:
- Clearly state his or her name
- Clearly state the name of the charitable organization and the city of its principal place of business
- Clearly state the name of the commercial fundraiser, if any, that employs the solicitor
- Disclose the true nature of the organization's relationship to the government, if it is associated with or has a name similar to a government organization
- Upon request, provide the published telephone number of Office of the Secretary of State Charities Program (1-800-332-4483).
An individual asking for a charitable contribution MUST NOT:
- Make a false, deceptive, or misleading statement
- State or imply that the contribution is tax deductible unless the charity qualifies for such status with the IRS
- Use the name "police", "sheriff", "firefighter" or a similar name, unless authorized
- Harass, intimidate, or torment
- Claim that tickets to an event will be donated, unless the fundraiser has obtained a letter from those persons stating they will accept the tickets and the number they will accept
- Call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. (your time).
TO FILE A COMPLAINT
If you feel a charity or commercial fundraiser is operating in a deceptive or illegal manner, contact the Consumer and Business Fair Practice Division of the State Attorney General's Office at 1-800-551-4636. You may visit the Attorney General's website and file a formal complaint online.