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Tips for Charitable Giving

More than 1 million non-profit businesses exist in America today. Over 500,000 are considered charitable institutions. In any case, it seems each one of them is asking for donations. The daily mail is filled with solicitations. The telephone rings with calls from fundraisers of all types. The problem faced by the potential giver is coping with the rising tide of requests - distinguishing the responsible and accountable from the fraudulent and mismanaged. The following is a list of questions people should investigate before making a contribution. Some information can be gathered through telephone conversations, while other informational documents can be requested from the organizations.

  1. Does the organization have a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status as determined by the Internal Revenue Service?
  2. Is the organization incorporated in the State of Ohio?
  3. Does the organization publish an annual report and provide it upon request? Does the annual report contain a detailed annual budget certified by an independent public accounting firm?
  4. Does the organization have an active and responsible volunteer governing board?
  5. Is there a clear statement of purpose, and do the organization's programs and services address that stated purpose?
  6. Does it have a responsible program, along with responsible management and fund raising expenses?
  7. What specifically are their administrative and fund raising expenses as a percentage of total funds raised?
  8. Is the organization providing services in your community?
  9. Who decides how your charitable donation is spent? For example, money given to a United Way goes through a committee of volunteers that makes funding decisions based on an assessment of community needs.
  10. Are the organization's publicity and promotional materials ethical and accurate? What does the charity claim; does it deliver? Internal Revenue Service: Check with the IRS to determine whether the organizations you are considering giving to has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. If it does not, then your gift is not tax deductible.

United Way: Organizations receiving funds from United Way of Erie County have undergone a rigorous review of their budgets, programs, and services. Local volunteers, based on assessments of community needs complete this review. To find out if the organization soliciting you is supported by United Way contact the United Way of Erie County at (419) 625-4672.