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RISMEDIA, December 9, 2010—While the holiday season puts many in the spirit to give, it’s also important to do some research before opening your wallet to support charitable causes.
"There are many worthy charitable causes and residents should feel free to contribute to causes with personal meaning, whether a local homeless shelter, food bank, soup kitchen, animal rescue, or an international organization with global outreach," said Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Basil L. Merenda. "However, I urge everyone to take the time to understand where their dollars will be going so they can have confidence that their donation will have the biggest benefit and get to the people who need it most."
Before giving to any charitable organization, research how your money will be used. Most charities are legitimate and strive to ensure the majority of dollars go directly into worthwhile projects, but some may misrepresent their cause or spend a high percentage of donations on administrative costs. Be sure that the charity's spending practices match your expectations.
Here are some tips and warnings to help ensure your donation goes to the right place:
1. Never give to a charity you know nothing about.
2. Request written information from the charity about its programs and finances.
3. Do not feel pressured into giving on the spot or allow someone to come to your home to pick up the contribution.
4. Never commit to donate over the phone unless you are familiar with the organization.
5. Never give cash, credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Always write a check payable to the charity so you have a record of your donations.
6. All charities have expenses, so check carefully and understand how your donation will be spent.
7. Consult with a tax advisor to determine whether your contribution is tax deductible. If giving before Dec. 31, charitable donations may be tax deductible for the upcoming tax filing.