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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > December 2021 > Be a Wise Donor This Holiday Season

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Be a Wise Donor This Holiday Season

The sound of jingle bells signals an uptick in charities seeking year-end donations. To prevent your holiday contributions from going to waste, it’s important to learn to be a wise donor – by recognizing charitable giving scams and researching organizations that you’re interested in supporting.

If you are asked to give money to an unfamiliar charity, take time to do a little investigating before you contribute. Call the charity – a reputable organization will welcome inquiries – and carefully examine the information and materials provided.

Sometimes, a charity calls to solicit its donations. Be aware that the solicitor must provide the charity’s name and other basic information, including the location of the organization’s principal place of business.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section advises donors to ask the right questions and do research to make sure their gifts will be used as they intend.

Check out AG Yost’s tools for researching charities to help make informed decisions about giving.
Things to think about when giving to charity:
  • If you’re considering a donation to an unfamiliar group, check the organization’s website first. Does the information match what you received when asked to contribute? Do the group’s programs and services make sense? Does the charity provide useful information and seem to foster transparency?
  • Talk with friends and family about unfamiliar solicitations. Have they heard of the group? Do they know of anyone who has been helped by it?
Most charities are well-intentioned, but there are inevitably some bad apples in the bunch. Watch for these warning signs of a potential charitable giving scam:
  • Do not provide credit-card or banking information to unexpected callers. Ask for written information.
  • Consider checking with the charity mentioned by a caller to determine whether its fundraising campaign is legitimate.
  • Avoid groups that pressure you to make donation decisions immediately or offer to pick up a gift at your home.
  • Beware of an individual or entity that doesn’t provide a real callback phone number.
  • Don’t be fooled by a charity’s name. Fraudulent organizations often create names similar to those of large, well-known charities. Scams often center on causes related to veterans, police and fire departments, natural disasters and cancer.
  • Recognize that scammers may claim that you made a pledge or donated previously when you did not. They also may ask you to make a check payable to an individual instead of an organization.
  • Ask for details. Some charities pay professional solicitors to raise money on their behalf. When asked, the fundraisers must disclose the percentage of donations that benefit the charity. Sometimes the figure is very low – not a good sign.
To reduce the stress and pressure involved in receiving charitable solicitations, consider developing a giving plan in advance. You can start by identifying the groups you feel strongly about, and donate solely to them. You can tell other solicitors that you have finalized your annual giving plan but would be happy to review written information for next year.

If you learn that a charity is misusing resources or know of fraudulent solicitations, please file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or by clicking here.