FORT MYERS, Fla. — FORT MYERS, Fla. — Charities around the world promote the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as “Giving Tuesday” to encourage people to spend money on causes rather than merchandise.
But charity watchdog groups warn donors to be aware of unscrupulous charities and even scam organizations during the holiday season, as they’ve been known to prey on that goodwill.
It’s important to verify that whoever is soliciting donations is accurately identifying themselves and the organization they work for.
One simple way to do this is to ask the solicitor to send more information about the charity through the mail. Ask for the organization’s tax identification number, too.
Experts also recommend looking for a charity that uses 75 percent or more of its total revenues for program expenses instead of salaries and fundraising costs.
The following resources can be used to find out if a charity is properly registered and how well it’s spending it’s money:
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Check a Charity – All Florida
organizations that solicit donations are required to register. The search tool provides financial information about every group’s expenses and revenue as well as the amount of money used on program expenses. Consumers can also request to see if any complaints have been filed against a charity by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA.
- IRS Exempt Organization Search – Donations to nonprofit organizations are often tax-
deducible, so the IRS provides this search tool to verify what type of tax exemption
an organization holds.
- Charity Watch – This nonprofit charity watchdog develops ratings for some of the nation’s largest charities by analyzing tax forms and other financial records.
- Charity Navigator – Another nonprofit charity watchdog that analyzes a wider range of
charities. The methods used to generate ratings for charities are slightly different from Charity Watch’s.
- Guidestar – Provides access to actual IRS 990 forms.