Charitable donations – defining the good from the bad

You hear a cry for help on television… People suffering from a traumatic disease are in need.  Our honored veterans need resources to build their lives.  The homeless are without shelter, food, and clothes.  Pets are beaten and abandoned. People in other countries need our help too.  There are many calls for assistance.  And, Americans respond.

starve 225x300 Charitable donations – defining the good from the bad

We are not “dissing” any charity or individual cause.  In fact, BBB is a huge cheerleader for the charities that fight for those in need because we believe in helping those in need.    Charities and their requests are noble…most of the time. We are keenly aware that charities have capital expenses just like any business.  Revenues are needed to pay for employees, buildings, operational costs, programs, marketing, etc.  But at the heart of the donation is the guarantee that a fair percentage of the donation goes to the intended cause. We ask before you donate: Can you decipher between the well-intentioned from the not-so-well-intentioned?

Start by checking a Charity Review with your local BBB or go to  This review will offer more than a snapshot of information.  In particular though, it provides a breakdown of where all monies go to in the “Finance” section.  The review also provides information concerning a charity’s governance and its programs.  When a potential donor asks, a charity should be able to provide financial statements or an annual report that reveals a synopsis of the charity in a given fiscal year.  If they do not wish or hesitate to provide this information, be concerned.  Of course, a fund raising firm collecting for a charity won’t be able to provide the charity’s financial statements. However, the hired fund raising firm should have a general idea of the percentage donated that will be used towards the charity’s purpose intended.  One of BBB’s standards for charitable accountability states that at least 65% should go towards the intended cause.

Another problem donors run up against is the familiarity of a charity’s name.  It’s easy to throw in words such as Fraternal Order of some recognized name, or an association as such.  It could name itself “The ’Whatever’ Society,” but is it the one you want to donate to?  Bouncing around everyday names can be confusing and an easy way to rip off the public.

Donating to a charity is heartfelt.  Donors want to do the right thing.  And legitimate charitable organizations do too.  When there are disaster victims without food, water, and shelter from a tsunami, an earthquake or other natural disasters, there is a call to arms and people want to help.   This is to be commended. There are also opportunists out there who prey on the giving and the trusting.

Help those who deserve and need our help.  Make sure that your donations are going to the cause you deem – after careful review – most worthy.  It’s a sure bet that honorable charities will be happy you checked first too.

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About Kristal Heffley

Ad Review and Social Media Specialist of BBB serving Northern Indiana. Kristal spends a great deal of time learning, writing about, and educating the public on scams of the day. She also is quite the social-media enthusiast and community partner. You can follow her posts, i.e. BBB serving Northern Indiana on Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and of course, our blog.