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How to Donate Money to a Charity; Avoid Charity Scams and Phony Non-Profits

You Can Learn How to Give to Others Without Feeling Cheated

You don't have to risk being cheated when you give to charities.  There are ways to see that your money is used the way you intend.

You don't have to risk being cheated when you give to charities. There are ways to see that your money is used the way you intend.

We all Want to Feel Good about Giving

It is such an admirable trait to want to reach out and help others. Throughout the year, and particularly during the winter holiday season, we are often bombarded with photographs of homeless people and starving children in the United States and around the world. The desire to reach out and help these people is commendable.

Most of us want to be able to ease the suffering of others. It is almost a natural instinct. In fact, researchers have discovered that the brain releases special chemicals when we help others, and these chemicals cause us to feel good about ourselves. I have even read that we feel as good about giving to others as we do about receiving.

Unfortunately, because it is so natural to want to help others, sometimes we may be taken advantage of. There are criminals who prey on generous people and try to take the money and use it for themselves rather than for the charities they claim to support. How can we protect ourselves from these types of scams so we can truly feel good about our giving?

Do Not Let Phone Solictors Pressure You!

One of the best ways to make sure that your donations really are used to help others is to give to well-known, reputable charities. Don’t be fooled by mysterious callers who ask you to donate to a police circus or to buy food for starving children. They may not be representing a charity at all! My family members always ask phone solicitors to mail us any requests for charitable contributions. If the person who called you is unwilling to mail us more information, we refuse to donate to them. Any reputable organization will be happy to send you information about their charity, so that you can look it over and investigate them.

In addition, if an organization will mail you information about your charity, it benefits you in two ways. First, it gives you time to decide if this organization is the best one for you to help. Second, it gives you an opportunity to check out the organization and see if it is legitimate. Once you have more time and information, you can make a wise, intelligent decision about whether or not you want to send them money.

Do not let yourself be pressured or harassed. Representatives of legitimate charities tend to be polite, respectful and patient. They want good referrals.

Make Donations to Reputable Charities

If you want to help others, and you are not sure which agencies are best, choose a charity that you have heard of before. For example, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent help people both in the United States and around the world when anyone is a victim of a natural disaster. Other reputable, well-known organizations are the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, World Vision, and UNICEF. Nearly every illness or disease also has a corresponding charity that uses the money to help with research or to assist those who need help paying for medical treatment. Your doctor or local hospital will be able to help you select a reputable disease oriented charity.

In addition, if you want to give to people who may be having a hard time in your own neighborhood, call your city hall to see if there is a local community foundation. Even your area utility companies often have foundations that help people who are having trouble paying their electric bills or gas bills. There is almost certainly one or more food banks or homeless shelters located in your city, as well. One of my favorite charities is the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank that is able to provide several wholesome meals to people for just one dollar a day. A small donation goes a long way.

Your religious organization is also a good source of ideas for charitable donations. You will probably already be making donations to your church, temple or synagogue. In addition, they may also have mission groups, senior centers, soup kitchens or other service organizations that could benefit from your volunteer time and financial donations. There are many ways to help the poor without risking that your money may be stolen and wasted.

A final way to see your money do the most good is to make micro-loans to people in developing countries. Sometimes a loan of less than $50 or $100 can make it possible for a mother to buy the supplies to start her own business. She will then re-pay the loan and the same initial donation can be used to help someone else. One donation can eventually transform dozens of lives! The book shown earlier in this article will help you learn more about micro-loans.

Investigate the Charity

If you have any concern about whether or not you are donating to a legitimate organization, you can contact the Better Business Bureau. They have a division called the Wise Giving Alliance. You can also do an internet search of the company to see what others have to say about it. Of course, you have to be realistic. Every charity is bound to have a few disgruntled people. However, if most of the comments you read identify the charity as a scam, you may be wise to avoid it.

What You Need to Know Before You Give

Take Your Time before Donating to Charities

As mentioned before, one reason to request that phone solicitors mail you their donation request is because you want to have plenty of time to check out everyone who asks you for a donation. If you have any doubts, discuss the charity with your minister, physician or financial adviser. Be sure that the money you donate goes for the purpose you intend. Then, you can relax and really feel good about the donations you make. The world is a better place because of generous people like you!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Deborah-Diane


Deborah-Diane (author) from Orange County, California on May 12, 2015:

It is so upsetting when we get pushy, aggressive phone calls asking us to donate to a charity. I always prefer to take my time and make sure my money is going to the best place possible. I only have so much money to give, and I want to make sure it is as effective as possible.

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Deborah-Diane (author) from Orange County, California on May 10, 2015:

It really upsets me when I hear about charity scams. Not only do the hurt the gift giver, but these scams deprive the people who could have benefited from the donation. I really want to try to put a stop to them!

Deborah-Diane (author) from Orange County, California on September 25, 2014:

So many people see their money go to waste by sending it to criminals ... and they don't know it. What is sad is the fact that the money that is lost could do so much good in the world!

C E Clark from North Texas on December 18, 2013:

So glad the comments section is back on this article! Such an important article (I have written one too quite some time ago, but I think people can't learn too much about this subject to protect themselves and make their money go as far as possible in helping others), and I hope everyone will read it and learn from it.

The Christmas season is when so many people open their hearts and their wallets to the less fortunate and so the more informed they are the better in the hope that every penny that is given will truly help someone in need and not just end up in a charlatan's pocket. Sharing this important article again!

Deborah-Diane (author) from Orange County, California on December 16, 2013:

Thank you to everyone who has read and tried to comment on this Hub recently. I realized that I had checked the wrong box in the comments sections, and I have now fixed that problem.

Krazy Coupon Mommy from Italy on July 16, 2011:

This is such good advice ! It's amazing to me how many people will prey on those looking to help those in need.

stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on July 10, 2011:

Wonderful useful hub. Enjoyed it very much. God Bless You.

Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on June 15, 2011:

An excellent hub and very good advice for all of us. There are so many creeps out there, who will use a good cause and other people's suffering to make a few quid for themselves. Many thanks for sharing.

Deborah-Diane (author) from Orange County, California on June 14, 2011:

Thank you for the reminder that we have to be careful of email requests, too. There are, unfortunately, dishonest people who will try to take advantage of caring people. It's a type of stealing!

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on June 14, 2011:

I have also received e-mails that are targeted at people who are compassionate. They appear to be from someone that needs help in a third world country and request that money be donated by giving out bank account numbers. These, too, are scams. A person really needs to be careful!

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