BBB Tips on Charitable Giving this Holiday Season

December 01, 2008

Tis’ the season for giving! Whether you’re donating money, gifts, or your time, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance has guidance to help make sure your contributions have the most benefit for those in need this holiday season.

  • When in doubt, check it out. When an unfamiliar organization asks you for a donation, don’t give without gathering details about the charity, the nature of its programs and its use of funds. Also contact the BBB Wise Giving Alliance or go to for a BBB Wise Giving ReportTM on the charity.
  • Think before you give. If you are solicited at the mall or on the street, take a minute or two to “think.” Ask for the charity’s name and address. Get full identification from the solicitor and review it carefully. Ask to see written information on the charity’s programs and finances.
  • Giving later might be better. Never feel pressured to give on the spot. Legitimate charities will welcome your money tomorrow. If the solicitor pressures you with intimidation or harassing phone calls, don’t hesitate to file a complaint with BBB.
  • Watch out for cases of mistaken identity. With more than one million charities in the U.S., it’s not surprising that some charity names sound alike. Be careful that the one soliciting you is the one you have in mind.
  • Don’t accept vague claims. If something is being sold to benefit a charity, be wary of vague statements such as “all proceeds go to charity” or “your purchase will benefit a charity.” Look for a disclosure that indicates the actual or estimated amount of the purchase price that the charity will receive to fund its programs.
  • Unordered merchandise is free. If a charity sends you greeting cards, address labels or other merchandise with an appeal for donations, you are not obligated to make a donation or pay for the items.
  • Watch out for charity fraud. Legitimate charities do not demand donations; they willingly provide written information about their programs, finances or how donations are used; and they never insist you provide your credit card number, bank account number or any other personal information.
  • Donate toys, food or services. Consider donating food, toys, clothing or other items needed during the holidays. Volunteering your time is another useful and much appreciated option.
  • Remember, not all soliciting groups are charities. If you want to take a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes, make sure to verify the organization’s tax-exempt status first. You can check out a charity’s tax-exempt status at

For more charitable giving tips, go to