Five Mistakes to Avoid When Donating to a Charity

December 17, 2010
hand writing a check

Arlington, Va. -- Every holiday, billions of dollars are donated to worthy causes and now more than ever charities need the support of donors to help those who are struggling. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance advises donors on how to avoid five common mistakes in order to ensure their dollar stretches the farthest in these tough economic times.

“With so many people out of work and in need, it’s extremely important that you maximize the impact your holiday donations have by avoiding the common giving mistakes,” said H. Art Taylor, President and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “A smart donor takes a hard look at a charity’s programs, finances and governance before making a donation. While almost all charities have the best of intentions, not all organizations meet standards or are well managed.”

BBB Wise Giving Alliance recommends that donors avoid these common mistakes when donating to a charity this holiday:

  1. Assuming that only “low overhead” matters. How much money a charity spends on the actual cause—as compared to how much goes toward fundraising and administration—is an important factor, but it’s not the whole story. A charity with impressive financial ratios could have other significant problems such as insufficient transparency, inadequate board activity and inaccurate appeals.
  2. Failing to do your research before you give.  Even good friends may not have fully researched the charities they endorse, so don’t just take their word for it. Expertise is available. Go to to verify that a charity meets the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
  3. Succumbing to high-pressure, emotional pitches. Giving on the spot is never necessary, no matter how hard a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor pushes it.  The charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.
  4. Assuming that the charity wants any item you donate.  Worn out, unusable or unwanted donated goods cost charities millions of dollars each year because the organization has to bear the cost of tossing the unacceptable donation.  If you have questions about an item’s acceptability, call the charity and ask.
  5. Mistaking a charity’s identity.  With so many charities in existence, their names can blur in a donor’s mind and similar-sounding organizations are common. Be sure you know which charity you’re supporting and that it’s not a case of mistaken identity. 

Donors can check out BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluations on national soliciting charities for free at

For more information or to schedule and interview with a spokesperson on charitable giving, contact Alison Southwick at 703-247-9376 or

About the BBB Wise Giving Alliance
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance produces reports on over 1,200 nationally soliciting charitable organizations. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance does not rank charities but rather seeks to assist donors in making informed judgments by providing objective evaluations of national charities based on 20 strict standards. The outcomes of the evaluations – or BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM – are available online at The BBB Wise Giving Alliance is an affiliate of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.