1. Get the charity’s exact name. With so many charities in existence, mistaken identity is a common problem. Thousands of charities have “cancer” in their name, for example, but no connection with one another.
2. Resist pressure to give on the spot, whether from a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor.
3. Be wary of heart-wrenching appeals. What matters is what the charity is doing to help.
4. Press for specifics. If the charity says it’s helping the homeless, for example, ask how and where it’s working.
5. Check websites for basics. A charity’s mission, program and finances should be available on its site. If not, check for a report at www.give.org.
6. Check with state charity officials. In many states, charities are required to register, usually with the office of the attorney general, before soliciting. Click http://www.nasconet.org/documents/u-s-charity-offices/ for the relevant office in your state.
7. Don’t assume that every soliciting organization is tax exempt as a charity. You can readily check an organization’s tax status at www.irs.gov/app/eos.