(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today urged Ohioans to exercise caution when responding to requests from charitable groups for donations before the end of the year. While most of these will be legitimate, unfortunately there are always some unscrupulous operators who may try to take advantage of Ohioans' generosity.
"I encourage Ohioans to be generous in giving to charities of their choice," said Attorney General DeWine. "But also please take a moment to make a giving plan and investigate charities you may be unfamiliar with."
Determining in advance which charity or charities are of interest is doubly beneficial. This gives donors time to select and research charities prior to sending money. It also gives donors the option to respond to giving requests by saying that they have a giving plan.
One way to check out a charity is to visit the Ohio Attorney General's website. Last December, the Office began offering an Online Charitable Registration Search at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/CharitableSearch, which allows potential donors to verify if an organization is registered and in good standing. The Office's Charitable Law Section updated the registration process for charitable trusts in Ohio to an online filing system so that information could be easily shared with consumers.
All organizations whose fiscal years ended on or after November 2011 are required to use the online registration system. As organizations continue to file online, potential donors will also be able to review financial reports and see how much of every dollar donated goes to charitable work.
Additional information and links to further research charities located at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/CharitableSearch include:
The IRS's Exempt Organizations Selection Check can be used to verify if an organization has a valid 501(c)(3) or other tax-exempt designation. The IRS also lists organizations that have had their tax-exempt status revoked.
Private watchdog organizations often review data and reports on organizations and may grade them based on various spending standards and other procedures. Some of those groups are Wise Giving Alliance, Council of Better Business Bureaus or local BBB offices, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch.
The organization's IRS Form 990 return can be viewed on Guidestar. A free registration process is required to access the reports. The 990 will include information on how the group raises and uses its funds, and other operational details about the group. Important details to pay attention to include what percent of expenditures are used on program expenses rather than management and fundraising expenses. Descriptions of programs and expenses are often revealing, as well as reported information about travel and compensation levels. Self-dealing transactions between the charity and one or more of its directors should also be examined.
For additional information about a charity or to file a complaint about a questionable organization, call the Attorney General's Office at 800-282-0515 or file a complaint online at https://coin.ag.state.oh.us.
Dan Tierney -- 614-466-3840
Mark Moretti -- 614-466-3840