April 08, 2014

When you are asked to contribute to a charity the BBB urges you to do the following:

If solicited by phone, mail, or in person, ask for details about the organization: name, address, telephone number, etc.

Know the difference between tax exempt and tax deductible. Tax exempt means the organization doesn't have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return. Even though an organization is tax exempt, your contribution may not be tax deductible. If deductibility is important to you, ask for a receipt showing the amount of your contribution and stating that it is tax deductible. You may call the CCRA at 1-800-267-2384 to confirm the charity's charitable tax number or go to the website at

Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a fraudulent solicitor.

If you're solicited for a donation, ask if the caller is a paid fund-raiser and what percentage of your donation the fund-raiser will keep. If you're not comfortable with the amount, you may want to consider other options for donating.

Ask how your donation will be distributed. How much will go to the program you want to support, and how much will cover the charity's administrative costs? If a professional fund-raiser is used, ask how much it will keep. You may ask for a copy of the charity's latest audited statement to verify this information.

Be wary of charities offering to send a courier to collect your donation immediately.

Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making. If you have any doubt whether you've made a pledge or previously contributed, check your records. Be on the alert for invoices claiming you've made a pledge when you know you haven't. Some unscrupulous solicitors use this approach to get your money.

Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate fund-raisers won't push you to give on the spot.

Avoid cash gifts that can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it's best to pay by cheque. Use the official full name of the charity - not initials - on your cheque.

Watch out for similar sounding names. Some phony charities use names closely resemblling those of respected, legitimate organizations.

Call the Societies Branch of the Ministry of Finance at 604-775-1046 to determine if the organization is a registered society. There is only a fee for this service when you request extensive information such as the names of the society's directors.