Your guide to charitable giving

The holiday season – and the end of the tax year – motivates many consumers to donate money to their favorite charities. In fact, the average person makes 24 percent of their annual donations between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to Charity Navigator. And after a two-year drop in charitable contributions –  which has been the hardest hit those organizations have taken in more than forty years – the trend is finally beginning to turn around, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

So with more than half a million federally recognized charities soliciting contributions, chances are high that you will be asked to make a donation this year. The following are some tips to ensure that you are giving wisely:

  • Ask questions. Request identification from the solicitor and read written information provided. Be certain that the organization has a clear mission and identifiable goals.
  • Be wary of high-pressure appeals. For example, be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge that you do not remember making. Legitimate charities should not intimidate you into making an on-the-spot donation.
  • Do your homework. Before making a donation, call the charity to find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. The Better Business Bureau offers a great guide for donors to help ensure you’re giving to a legitimate organization.
  • Do not give cash. For security and tax record purposes, pay by check. Write the official name of the charity on your check and always ask for a receipt in return.

For additional help selecting a charitable organization, visit CharityNavigator.org. A little research up front will make sure that your dollars are put to good use.

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.