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How to donate wisely during the season of giving

Tips to ensure that your charitable donations are effective and your financial information remains secure.

By Diane Watkins

December 4, 2018

Man holding cellphoneThe holiday season often inspires a spirit of giving and the motivation to assist those in need. If you choose to participate in charitable giving during the holidays, or any time of year, following the tips provided by the Federal Trade Commission can help you carefully plan your donations and avoid charity scams. Read the full article and view the corresponding video for more details. 

Do online research:

  • To find a charity to support, search for a cause you care about and include phrases such as “best charity” or “highly rated charity” in your search.
  • If you have a specific charity in mind, search for its name plus the terms “complaint,” “review,” “rating” or “scam.”
  • Learn how charitable organizations spend donations and conduct business by reviewing the reports and ratings provided by several organizations.

If you are asked to donate, ask the following questions upfront:

  • How is my money going to be used?
  • Where is the organization located?
  • Who exactly are you?
  • How much of my money is going directly to programs and services?

Be careful how you pay:

  • Don’t give donations in cash, by gift card or by wire transfer – that’s how scammers normally ask for payment. Paying by credit card or check is safer.
  • Keep a record of all donations and review your statements to make sure you’re charged only the amount you agreed to donate — and that you’re not signed up for recurring donations.
  • Before clicking a donation link, find out if your donation is going directly to the charity or an online giving portal.

Keep these scammers’ tricks in mind: 

  • Rushing you into making a decision.
  • Tricking you by referencing a previous donation you didn’t make.
  • Changing caller-ID information to make it look like a local area code.
  • Using names that sound like the names of legitimate charities.
  • Making vague, sentimental claims rather than sharing the specific uses for your donation.
  • Claiming that your donation will be tax-deductible when it’s not.
  • Guaranteeing sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation (which is illegal).

If you suspect you’re dealing with a scam, report it to and your state charity regulator. Provide any information you have – such as the name of the organization or fundraiser, phone number and what the fundraiser said. 

Please don’t think that every charity just wants to take your money and run – there are hundreds of worthwhile charities that do a tremendous service for worthy causes. Being informed can help you find the best charities that will do the most good with your money.  

Remember that giving to the MSU Denver Foundation is a great way to support the mission of the University as it transforms lives, communities and higher education. Consider making a donation to support our University community during the holiday season and throughout the year.  

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