DETROIT (12/16/14)--The holidays are synonymous with giving, as seasonally warm feelings for humanity combine with charities searching for a year-end boost to their bottom lines.
While this is mostly a good thing, potential givers should be careful: Many fraudsters and unscrupulous organizations are looking to take advantage of their good intentions. A few simple questions and a quick online lookup are usually all it takes to determine if a charity is legitimate.
Ask about the charity's history, location, and tax ID number--if the answers seem fishy or vague, don't open your checkbook (The Detroit News
Dec. 10). If someone is soliciting money in person, don't be afraid to pause and research the organization on your smartphone before deciding to donate.
Even better, take steps to avoid feeling guilt for declining just because someone asked you to give. The New York Times
offered these tips last week for creating a giving plan.
Decide how much you want to give--either a dollar amount or percentage of income. Then choose an organization.
Pick a charity that aligns with your beliefs and will spend your donation responsibly. The website Give Well has analyzed thousands of charities and provides information about their pros and cons.
Decide how often you want to give and then follow your plan. By budgeting your generosity, you'll know exactly how much you've given and to whom come tax time.
When asked for a donation by other organizations, simply explain you've already given another way.
For related information, read "Financial Gifts Can Improve Well-Being" and "Holidays Are Rich With Teachable Money Moments" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center