The end of the year is a time when many of us consider giving to charitable organizations. Besides making us feel good, giving builds and strengthens communities, shows others the importance of generosity, and provides helpful tax deductions to individuals and corporations alike.
In 2022, despite continued economic recovery from effects of the pandemic and higher-than-usual inflation, Americans gave approximately $499.33 billion to charitable organizations. While the total was less than previous years, it’s still an impressive amount.
While giving is an important gesture, it’s also important to exercise caution and make sure the organizations you’re planning to support are legitimate. The last thing you want is to have your donation go to a scammer, or worse yet, have your identity stolen.
Decide Which Charity to Support
According to the latest data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.54 million charitable organizations registered in the United States alone, so narrowing down which organizations you want to support may involve doing some research and deciding which causes are most important to you.
You may feel that by keeping your donations local, there’s a better opportunity to see the direct impact of your giving. While that’s often true, charity given to organizations in support of developing communities in the United States and across the world can go a long way and be just as impactful.
It’s also good to remember that the impact of your support might be greater if you give regularly to one charity versus making random donations to many. Doing so makes it easier for the organization to process your gift as well as make more accurate annual income projections.
Run a Charity Lookup
To search for charitable organizations in Arkansas and beyond, try looking them up online by entity names to get a better idea of their mission and values, organizational structures, and achievements. Add the words “best-rated charity” or “best charities” to your keyword phrase; this will help narrow down your search. Here’s an example of what to type into the search bar: “Arkansas disaster relief best charities.”
These websites also provide excellent information and help assure you the charities you’re interested in are legitimate:
If making a tax-deductible contribution is important to you, be sure to verify that the organizations you’re interested in are registered with the IRS as U.S. nonprofits. Visit the Tax Exempt Organization Search on the IRS website to check their registration statuses. As a double check, ask the nonprofits for their IRS-issued employer identification numbers and validate them against your IRS website searches.
If you’re planning to donate to an Arkansas charity, you can also check the status of organizations on the Arkansas Charities Database. Their registration statuses should be listed as “Current.” If you see “Closed” or “Not Current,” do not donate.
Before You Give: Charity Precautions and Red Flags
Giving through charitable contributions is an amazing and heartfelt way to share your wealth, but unfortunately, there are always scammers around to take advantage of your kindness. Here are things to watch out for as you plan to make donations:
- Be careful what a charity calls themselves. Scammers sometimes name their charities similar to well-known organizations, so if you’re solicited by a group you’re uncertain about, don’t donate until you can verify their exact business name, IRS status, website, phone number, and mailing address.
- Be careful how much information you share. You should never have to give out personal information such as your Social Security Number, birthdate, credit card data, or driver’s license number when making a donation. If you’re asked to provide any of these things, don’t give the information out and don’t donate.
- Be careful regarding what a charity representative tells you. When speaking with a charity representative by phone, online, or in person, you should never feel pressured to make a donation “right now,” nor should you get a vague response if you ask how your donation will be used. Don’t donate. Additionally, if you get told you will win a sweepstakes for giving money … don’t donate.
- Be careful what you click on. If you’re planning to donate online, go directly to the website to make your donation; don’t click on ads, links, or third-party emails to reach the website. Once you’re on the website, check the URL; most nonprofits have web addresses that end in .org and not .com. Also, if you notice a lot of misspellings on the organization’s web pages or the graphic design seems strange, don’t donate.
- Be careful how you pay. A reputable charity will always be willing to accept your donation by credit card or check and provide you a transaction receipt for verification and tax purposes. If the charity demands you wire them money or hand over a prepaid debit card or gift card, don’t donate.
What to Do If Charity Fraud Happens to You
If you think you’ve been targeted by a charity scammer, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint with the Attorney General of Arkansas. Have details about the incident ready including the name of the charity, date of contact, nature of the contact, and information about your donation.
If you gave the charity scammer debit card or credit card information, review your accounts as soon as possible to see if funds were debited and if any other unauthorized transactions posted to your account. Then call your card provider or financial institution to report the charges and cancel or freeze your card.
To report potential or unauthorized debit card use to Chambers Bank or if you wrote a check to the charity scammer from your Chambers Bank Checking Account, contact our Customer Care Center during business hours at 1-800-603-1226 for further assistance.
Giving Safely with Chambers Bank
As a family-owned banking network with over 90 years of service across Arkansas, we at Chambers Bank enjoy supporting those who live and work around us by donating to charitable organizations, volunteering, and participating in community events. And when you join us in supporting others, we assure you that your donations are always managed safely and your time is appreciated.