Charity and generosity has long been a tradition in Upstate New York, especially during the holiday season. If you’re considering giving to those in need, or just have a special cause in mind, Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York reminds donors to ask critical questions before opening their wallets. It’s important to also verify the organization is in good standing with the IRS since nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations are required to file an annual informational tax return called the Form 990.
BBB alerts donors to a Syracuse based charity, Camp Fire USA Central New York Camp Talooli – currently F rated – who has a revoked 501(c)(3) IRS tax exempt status yet is still operating as a charity and soliciting gifts from the public. BBB has experienced that not all charities operate the same and encourage donors to do their research and verify current tax-exempt status before they give.
According to IRS public information Camp Fire USA Central New York Council, Camp Talooli (15-0539112) tax exempt status was revoked in February for its failure to file a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years. It was not contested and was posted to the public in May. Since the Camp Talooli revocation posting date in May, any donations made were no longer tax-deductible yet Camp Talooli advertised that donations would be tax-exempt and held a fundraising Family Run/Walk on Saturday, October 12, 2013 and held a fall family camping weekend during the month of October as well.
BBB has reached out to Camp Talooli’s Executive Director, Jan Peneston, after becoming aware of the revocation and requested substantiation of claims that they were in fact a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity. Ms. Peneston responded to BBB stating that she believed that the revocation was done in error and she was in the process of having it overturned. BBB requested verification that Camp Talooli was in fact engaged in a process having this revocation overturned and this request went unanswered. Currently, Camp Talooli has not responded to BBB requests for information.
BBB now offers local Charity Reviews that are based on 20 voluntary Standards for Charity Accountability developed by BBB Wise Giving Alliance. These comprehensive standards address charity finances, fund raising and informational materials, governance, effectiveness, donor privacy, and other aspects of charity operations. BBB reports on charities that meet its standards, charities that do not meet its standards, and charities that will not disclose their organization information to BBB.
BBB offers the following tips to ensure wise giving to deserving charities:
Start with trust. Check out any company or charity at bbb.org to view their BBB Business or Charity Review free of charge. If you don’t find the information you needed, contact us at bbb.org.
Check Exact Names. With so many charities in existence, mistaken identity is a common problem. Thousands of charities have "cancer" in their name, for example, but no connection with one another. Always verify that the organization connected to that exact name is the one you intended on giving to.
Check with the IRS. Don't assume every publicly soliciting organization is tax-exempt as a charity. You can readily check an organization's tax status at IRS.
Resist on-the-spot Giving. Solicitations as we shop or go about our day can be appealing however it’s important to research first. Avoid pressure to give on the spot, whether from a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor.
Be wary of heart-wrenching appeals. While the message can tug at our hearts what matters most is what the charity is doing for others. Press for specifics. If the charity says it's helping the homeless, for example, ask how and where it's working.
Check websites for basics. A charity's mission, program and finances should be available on its site. If not, check for a report at www.give.org.
Ask Questions. Ask about how much of your donation will support the charity. BBB recommends they spend at least 65% of its total expenses on program activities and spends no more than 35% of related contributions on fund raising. Inquire about oversight to make sure they have proper authority engaged with their organization. Beware of inflated claims or appeals that sound too good to be true.
To check BBB Charity Reviews go to bbb.org/charity or email us at email@example.com.