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BBB® Foundation Offers Charity Giving Guide for Holiday Donors

shopping 100Your BBB Foundation Serving Northwest Florida recently released its 2012 Charity Giving Guide to help donors make educated giving decisions this holiday season.

“During the holiday season, donors – businesses and individuals alike – are often overwhelmed with requests for assistance,” said Norman Wright, President/CEO of your BBB|Northwest Florida.  “Add to that requests for donations in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and donors are likely to have a hard time choosing which charities to support.  We hope that our Charity Giving Guide can help donors make wise giving decisions and that charities will use the Standards for Charitable Accountability as a guide for ‘best practices’ in their operations.”

Charities are an important part of our marketplace.  BBB issues Wise Giving Reports on charities locally and makes them available free-of-charge year-round; however, the Charity Giving Guide is a summary of the detailed reports of evaluations of all the charities in your BBB’s local database.

BBB reviews local charities against BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.  The Standards, developed over a three-year period with input from nonprofit representatives, IRS officials, foundation executives, donors and other stakeholder groups, provide an objective means to evaluate a charity’s governance and oversight, measurement of effectiveness, finances and fundraising and informational materials, all evaluations that surveys have shown that donors are interested in knowing before making a donation.

The 2012 Charity Giving Guide is available on BBB|Northwest Florida’s website at www.nwfl.bbb.org/CGG.

If you represent a local nonprofit or charity organization and would like to be evaluated by your BBB against the Standards for Charity Accountability, contact your BBB at 850.429.0002, 800.729.9226 or e-mail info@nwfl.bbb.org.

For additional information and advice you can trust this holiday season, start with bbb.org.

Ten Tips for Better Charitable Giving

Most charities are honest and ethical, but questionable solicitors are counting on the fact that you won't bother to check out the charity before you give.  Your BBB offers some basic wise giving advice:

Watch out for similar names.  With numerous charities supporting similar causes, some charity names are bound to sound the same.  Look at the name carefully, because the charity soliciting you may not be the one you have in mind.

Don’t be pressured to make an immediate gift.  Be wary of solicitors that demand an "on the spot donation."  Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.

Question vague appeals.  Appeals should clearly identify the charity's programs. Watch out for appeals that are strong on identifying a problem, but weak on describing what specifically the charity intends to do about it.

Don’t give personal information to phone solicitors.  Don't give out credit card numbers, checking account numbers or any other personal information to unknown telephone solicitors.

Don’t give cash.  Write out a check to the charity's full official name, not to an individual or third party that may be collecting the donation.

Keep record of your donations (receipts, canceled checks and bank statements) so you can document your charitable giving at tax time.  The IRS requires donations of $250 or more to be substantiated through a written documentation.

If you want a deduction, make sure the organization is a charity.  There are many different types of soliciting nonprofit organizations.  Most appeals will indicate if the organization is eligible to receive gifts deductible as charitable donations.  (To be sure, review the list of organizations in IRS Publication 78 or ask the charity for a copy of its tax exempt status determination letter.)

Don't hesitate to ask the charity for written information on its programs and finances.  This tip can be particularly helpful in responding to phone appeals from charities that interest you.

    To verify if a charity is registered to solicit, contact your state government.  In Florida, check with the Division of Consumer Services in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  Remember that state registration does not mean "approval," it simply means the group has filed the appropriate forms.

    Report bad practices.  Contact your Better Business Bureau and your state's Attorney General office about solicitation problems.

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