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Most charities are honest and ethical, but questionable solicitors are counting on the fact that you won't bother to check out the charity before you give. Here is some basic wise giving advice:
1. Watch out for similar names. As there are many charities raising funds for similar causes, some charity names sound the same. Be sure to look at the name carefully, because the charity soliciting you may not be the one you have in mind.
2. Do not be pressured to make an immediate gift. Be wary of solicitors that demand an "on the spot donation." Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.
3. Question vague appeals. Appeals should clearly identify the charity's programs. Watch out for appeals that are strong on identifying a problem, but weak on describing what specifically the charity intends to do about it.
4. Do not give out personal information to phone solicitors. Don't give out credit card numbers, chequing account numbers, or any other personal information to unknown telephone solicitors.
5. Do not give cash. Write out a cheque to the charity's full official name, not to an individual or third party that may be collecting the donation.
6. Keep records of your donations (receipts, cancelled cheques and bank statements) so you can document you charitable giving at tax time.
7. If you want a deduction, make sure the organization is a charity. There are many different types of soliciting nonprofit organizations. Most appeals will indicate if the organization is eligible to receive gifts deductible as charitable donations. (To be sure, review the list of organizations on file with the Canada Revenue Agency or ask the charity for a copy of its registration number.)
8. Don't hesitate to ask the charity for written information on its programs and finances. This tip can be particularly helpful in responding to phone appeals form charities that interest you.
9. To verify if a charity is registered to solicit, contact your provincial government. In most cases, this will be the office of the Public Guardian & Trustee or the Canada Revenue Agency. Remember that provincial registration does not mean "approval," it means the group has filed the appropriate forms.
10. Report bad practices. Contact you Better Business Bureau.