As Holiday Near SOS Kemp Issues Tips for Charitable Giving

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Secretary of State Brian Kemp offers advice to Georgians planning to donate to charitable organizations during this year’s holiday season. Kemp wants donors to make sure any gifts are solicited honestly and used appropriately.

“As we approach the holiday season, Georgians begin looking for ways to lend a helping hand to those in need,” stated Secretary Kemp. “Unfortunately, bad actors view this time of year as the perfect opportunity to scam well-meaning donors. Before you open your checkbook, do your homework to make sure your donation will reach the intended recipients.”

Secretary Kemp issues the following tips for charitable giving to Georgians:

- Research charities before you contribute. A number of online resources can help you research charities. The Better Business Bureau, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch provide detailed information about charitable organizations. Also, take time to review the organization’s own website.

- Take the time to make sure that your money is really going to help those in need. Ask for detailed information about the charity.  Ask how much of your donation will go to the cause.  The percentage of your contribution that a charity spends on fundraising activities, employee salaries, or expenses which do not directly support the charity’s stated mission varies greatly by organization.

- Be wary of telephone solicitors asking for contributions. If you are solicited by phone, ask the individual to put the request in writing and provide detailed information and material about the charity and its program. Also, ask if the person conducting the solicitation is a volunteer or a paid fundraiser for that charity. Call the charity. Find out if the charity is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name.

- Be careful of email solicitations.  Be cautious of people who contact you online claiming to be a victim. Do not respond to unsolicited emails and do not open any attachments to these emails. These attachments may contain viruses.

- Never give your credit card, debit card, or bank account information to a telephone solicitor. Be particularly cautious of couriers willing to rush out to your home or business to pick up your contribution. Avoid sending cash donations. Donate by credit card or mail a check directly to the charity. Do not make payments to individuals. If your contribution exceeds $250, you should receive a letter from the charity confirming its charitable status as well as the amount of your donation.

- If a tax deduction is important to you, make sure the organization has a tax-deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service.Check the organization’s tax exempt status and confirm that it is in good standing.  “Tax exempt,” “non-profit”, and “tax-deductible” are not synonymous. Only “tax-deductible” means your contribution is deductible on your income tax return. If you contribute to a charity, make sure you get a receipt which shows the amount of your contribution and states that the contribution is tax-deductible. The IRS has a searchable database (“Exempt Organizations Check”) of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

- Review the organization’s financials. GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and the Foundation Center’s 990 Finder allow you to review copies of nonprofits’ most recently filed Form 990s. These forms contain useful information on a nonprofit’s assets, liabilities, reserves, expenses, and revenue sources.

- Not all organizations with charitable-sounding names are actually charities. Many organizations adopt names confusingly similar to well-known charities. Be sure you know exactly who is asking for your contribution.

The Charities Division encourages Georgians to contact division staff if they receive suspicious charitable solicitations. To report suspicious activity, call (404) 654-6021. You can also email charities@sos.ga.gov to submit a complaint.