It is so wonderful to see so many Americans giving back to people who have been hit so hard by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Hurricane Irma throughout Florida and most recently, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
But it breaks my heart when I see people feed off our giving spirit in times like these. The U.S. government already has cracked down on people trying to benefit from other people's pain. (Read more here) After 17 years of heading a non-profit organization - the Casey Cares Foundation - I know firsthand how important it is for people to know exactly where their charitable giving is going and how foundations are using their generous donations.
Here are some tips to follow when choosing where to give:
1.) Do your research. Before you give to any organization, make sure it is a legitimate non-profit organization. Check online at GuideStar or Charity Navigator,where you can discover if an organization is a legitimate charity, read through their IRS tax forms and find out if their donations are deductible. You can, and should, search for a charity's tax exempt 501(c)(3) status. The more transparent a non-profit is about its practices, the less likely it is they have something to hide.
2.) Do not give personal information over the phone. If someone contacts you at home for a donation, do not reveal your social security number, birthdate or bank information over the phone. A legitimate organization should be able to accept t checks and should have a verifiable mailing address. It is always recommended that you reach out to the charity to make a gift, not the other way around.
3.) Be aware of solicitors making high-pressure pitches: You should never feel corned about making a donation. As soon as you feel pressure, that should be a signal of trouble.
4.) Check out GoFundMe pages and websites. Plenty of people have created fundraising web pages and GoFundMe sites, but again make sure they are legitimate operations. Scam artists can be clever with their web page names and designs. Click here for a helpful guide to make sure you are donating to a legitimate organization.
5.) Don't be afraid to give. Just because the internet can seem like the Wild West doesn't mean there are not many wonderful organizations doing great things right in your community. As long as you take cautious steps to learn about how your money is being spent, non-profit organizations will do the heavy lifting.
We are so fortunate to live in a very generous country, and I am proud to have worked with fantastically good-hearted donors for 17 years at the Casey Cares Foundation. We take our work very seriously and are excited to say that will serve more than 1,000 families with critically ill children this year alone. Please continue to give. Just give wisely.
Casey Cares Foundation