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Money Management

Vet Charities Before Making Large Donations

Make sure your money’s going to a good cause, not some jerk’s pocket.

Charity is a truly wonderful thing. It’s a chance to spread your good fortune to those who have had a bad run of the dice, provide vital services that may be underfunded otherwise, and just give yourself a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Plus, charitable donations are tax deductible, especially the big ones. There’s pretty much no net negatives to charitable donations, provided at least that your money is going where it’s supposed to go. As has been the case since the beginning of human history, there are always jerks who seek to take advantage of a force for good to line their own pockets. It’s unfortunate that you have to consider such a thing when donating to charity, but it’s necessary to carefully vet charities before making large donations.

First, identify the charity in question’s mission. Every proper charity has a concrete mission statement, usually available on their website, that outlines who they are, what they stand for, what services they aim to provide, and where your money will go. If there’s a gap in information, then there’s a good chance it’s there on purpose to obfuscate the truth.

Second, visit the IRS website to check the charity’s Form 990. Every charitable organization, upon founding, is required to register with the IRS. They should have a form on file with a list of important personnel and notable actions. If the organization has been audited or investigated at all, there should be records of those as well. If a charity is starting trouble with the IRS, that’s a definite red flag.

Finally, if you can, try to contact the charity directly. Most charities worth their salt should have volunteers and representatives available to give you more information. Call them up and ask for the mission statement. If you’re feeling gutsy, you can also try volunteering yourself. If something is amiss, it shouldn’t take long for you to see it.

In an ideal world, you could just donate all you want to whatever charity you want. Though, I suppose, in an ideal world, there’d be no need for charities, huh? Either way, make sure to do your homework, and then you can donate all you want to get those warm fuzzies and tax write-offs.

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