Donors Advised to Give Cautiously During Height of Season

December 09, 2013

DENVER – As Colorado Gives Day approaches Dec. 10 and the charitable giving season heightens, the Better Business Bureau of Denver/Boulder advises donors to research charities thoroughly before donating.  

According to Giving USA, total charitable contributions rose for the third consecutive year in 2012, an increase of about 3.5 percent. During 2012’s Colorado Gives Day, an initiative to increase philanthropy in Colorado through online giving, $15.4 million was donated to local charities.


The BBB recommends donors to ask the following five questions before giving: 

1)   Is this a charity I can trust? Do not be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization. A common scheme used in charity fraud is name-pirating of well-known nonprofits to gain donors’ trust. Always verify a charity is who they say they are. Also, use the BBB’s free online directory to find BBB Accredited Charities and always check with the BBB at to see if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. These standards address charity governance, finances, fund raising, donor privacy and other accountability issues.

2)   How will the charity use my donation? Beware of appeals that bring tears to your eyes but tell you little about what the charity is doing about the problem it describes so well. Watch out for statements such as “all proceeds will go to the charity.” This can mean only money left after expenses goes to the charity. These expenses can be high, so check carefully.

3)   Is my donation tax deductible? If you want to take a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes, make sure the organization is tax exempt as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A charity appeal will usually include a reference to this. To verify a charity’s tax status, access the IRS database of organizations by viewing Publication 78 at

4)   Can the charity actually use what I am donating? If you plan to donate items such as food, toys, clothes, etc. to a worthy cause, know the kinds of contributions the charity prefers. For example, a food bank may prefer food items that are not perishable such as canned goods, and a toy drive may be seeking new and not used toys.

5)   Am I feeling pressured to give? Do not succumb to pressure to give money on the spot, either immediately over the phone via credit card or by allowing a “runner” to pick up a contribution. Also, never donate in cash. Always use a check or credit card to document the donation and to stop payment or dispute if you discover a problem. Reputable charities welcome donations at any time and don’t use high-pressure tactics.

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About the BBB

The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Reviews, BBB Charity Reports and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, there are 113 local, independent BBBs across the U. S. and Canada. Please visit for more information.