Donate to Charity Safely and Responsibly

In spite of the economy, many people still want to donate to charity. In fact, charitable donations have not taken much of a blow in spite of the current economic situation. Americans are generous people, and they realize that they are well off compared to the rest of the world.

It's wonderful to donate to charity, and I highly recommend it -- but that doesn't mean you should do so blindly. Unfortunately, not all charity organizations are what they seem to be. The worst types of crooks take advantage of your caring and decency by posing as charities and either taking all the money for themselves or donating only a very small portion to actual charity.

Fortunately, it's not all that hard to make sure your charitable donations go where they belong. Just a bit of charity research can make the difference.

Making your charitable organizations count

There are many different charity organizations, and depending how thorough you want to be, you can do a lot of research! Here are some basic tips to follow, though:

1. Stick with big name organizations.

Trusted charitable organizations like the Red Cross or your local food bank are generally safe bets. They've been around for a long time for a reason.

2. Donate items instead of money.

If you buy food, gifts, or clothing and donate it directly, you know it will get where it's going. This works best for local charities: for many others, the cost of shipping items makes it more effective for them to accept financial donations.

3. Choose 'pet' charities.

Rather than constantly researching new charities, choose 2 or 3 that are important to you and make them your targeted donations. Remember, you can't help everyone, so do what you can and be satisfied with that.

4. Don't respond to spontaneous pleas.

If you receive calls or door to door charity pleas, ask for information and time to think about your donation. Legit charities will provide you with plenty of information and opportunity. If they launch into a high pressure sales pitch, there's a problem.

Those four tips should keep you relatively safe. If you want to make your charity research even stronger, here are some additional things you can do.

-Conduct charity research through the Better Business Bureau, which does an excellent job of analyzing various charitable organizations.

-Donate to charity and allow the charity to decide where they spend the money. Some people like to donate to help a specific group of people or respond to a specific disaster, but the strongest charities refuse to earmark money, using it instead where it's most needed.

-Do a quick google search whenever you learn of a new charity. Include words like scam or complaints in your search.

-Never make charitable donations online until you've checked the website's security and privacy policy.

Remember, charity is very important, and I would never discourage you from giving. But in order to donate to charity responsibly, you need to know what you're getting into!

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