Giving Tuesday - How to know a charity is legitimate

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By: Good Nelly
on 21st Nov,2017

Do you want to donate to a charity on this Giving Tuesday? Before doing so, go through the ways to be sure that you’re donating to a legitimate charity.

Giving Tuesday is here! Let’s join hands and promote philanthropy.

But, while donating to a charity, have you ever thought whether or not the charity is a legitimate one?


When you gift to a qualified charitable organization, you may be eligible to get a deduction against your income tax the year in which you’ve paid the amount.

Therefore, while gifting, make sure the charity is legitimate.

How will you know it?

Here’s how you can be sure that you’re donating to a legitimate charity.

1 Beware of charities accepting only cash

When a charity accepts only cash, it may be a scam. FTC suggests that all donations should be made via credit card or check. Also, make the payment to the charity and not to any person’s name.

2 If the name mimics a reputed charity, it’s suspicious

The scam artists running such an organization aim to mislead or confuse people. People donating to such an organization think that they’re communicating with an established and reputed company.

3 You don’t get any satisfactory answer

When you ask how your money will be used, they don’t give any satisfactory answer; so, no need to donate there.

When you contact a charity, ask how they use the money or how they’re thinking to use your money. If you get a satisfactory answer, then it can be a green signal for you if it satisfies other criteria.

If you’re not satisfied with the answer, it’s wise to look for any other charity.

4 Investigate if a charity says they donate 100%

Investigate if the charity tells you that they give 100% of your amount.

Think logically! A charity has to bear some administrative costs as well. So, if such an organization claims that 100% of what you donate goes straight for charitable purposes, then you should research about the company a bit.

5 Ask questions to verify its authenticity

The best way to know whether or not a charity is reliable and legitimate, you should ask questions. They’ll tell you what portion of the donated amount goes toward paying rent along with other operational expenses.

Make sure you ask for a 990 tax form. If a charity hesitates to provide this document, it’s better not to donate there.

6 Be suspicious about charities that pop up suddenly

It is better not to give to a charity that has popped up suddenly, especially after a natural disaster or because of any current event. The reason being that most of the times, your donated amount doesn't reach the affected area due to lack of infrastructure.

Also, if a group claims that they’re helping your community, then verify from the local agency whether or not they’ve heard about it.

7 Ask for details and research

First of all, ask for details - Its name, telephone number, and address. Next, research it online.

According to Sandra Miniutti of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit organization, donors often choose a charity based on the name, but that may not be its mission.

So, before donating, visit the charity’s website and check out its mission. You can also volunteer to learn about its programs so that you can donate to a cause you want to.

Search with words “scam” or “complaint” with the name of the organization to know whether or not it’s reputed.

Also, call the charity to be sure that the phone number is valid.

8 Do not give account details along with personal information

Do not give your credit card or bank account number along with personal information.

First, research about the charity and be sure that it’s a reliable one. Then only give out your bank account number, check card number, credit card number or any other personal information.

9 Some more tips...

  • You can trust your instinct. You should feel good about the donation
  • Donate any other things (such as food or clothing) instead of cash if you have doubts about its legitimacy
  • Think twice if the charity doesn’t provide details about its identity
  • It’s goofy to give to a charity that provides overnight delivery service to collect the donation from you
  • Don’t ever send money to a P.O. Box

Here is a list of 12 legitimate charities where you can donate on Giving Tuesday:

Index No. Name of Charity Mode of Work Additional Information
1 Equal Justice Initiative (EJI)
  • Provides legal representation to people who have been victims of jail abuse and prisons, illegally convicted of a crime or given unfair sentence.
  • Also works to challenge death penalty, assists policymakers to pursue criminal justice reform, publish research and reports, and help formerly incarcerated people to reenter society.
  • Founded in 1989
  • Has a perfect rating of 100 from Charity Navigator
2 Navy SEAL Foundation
  • Supports both former and current US Navy SEALs, Naval Special Warfare personnel, Special Combatant-Craft Crewmen, and their families.
  • Established in 2000
  • Has a score of 100 from Charity Navigator
3 GiveDirectly
  • Transfers money to the poor people in Uganda and Kenya and they decide how to use the funds.
  • Ranked #4 by GiveWell
4 Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)
  • Provides funding for production and distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
  • The cost of purchasing and distributing one of these nets is just $4.68.
  • Designated #1 recommended charity by GiveWell
5 Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH)
  • Supports the work of National Institutes of Health by funding and maintaining relationships with institutions.
  • Also administers training and education programs for medical researchers along with providing support initiatives for patients.
  • Began its work in 1966
  • Has got highest possible rating of 100 by Charity Navigator
6 American Refugee Committee (ARC)
  • Works for emergency response services, provides healthcare, helps refugees find shelter, deliver clean water in refugee camps, along with conducting formal and informal education programs.
  • Currently has 3,926 active fiscally sponsored projects.
  • Established in 197
  • Charity Navigator has rated it 95.47 out of 100 of all the groups working on Syria
7 Fractured Atlas
  • Helps artists and arts groups by providing access to healthcare, funding, education, and much more.
  • Founded in 1988
  • Received score of 95.47 by Charity Navigator
8 Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN)
  • Support environmental conservation work by supporting endangered species to preserve their natural habitat.
  • Operates in 37 countries
  • Supports environmental activism - Seeks to build a global climate movement to keep carbon dioxide in the atmosphere within the safer limit.
  • The name refers to the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
10 Planned Parenthood
  • Provides sexual and reproductive healthcare to 2.5 million men and women every year.
  • Operates about 650 health centers all around the US.
  • Turned 100 years in 2016
  • Largest reproductive healthcare nonprofit organization in the nation
11 MAP International
  • Aims to save lives and improve the health of people in the world’s poorest communities.
  • It also works on disaster relief and provides humanitarian assistance after crisis.
  • Founded in 1954
  • Has given more than $5 billion worth of medicines and supplies to about 100 countries and more.
12 NEA Foundation
  • Provided about 4,000 grants to public schools and educators.
  • Established in 1988
  • Has a score of 100 from Charity Navigator
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