The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for the donation of household items. It is also one of the busiest times of the year — period. As a result, many people look for the quickest, easiest way to donate their used goods. This practice can, unfortunately, have unintended consequences, such as boosting the income of a for-profit group rather than aiding a nonprofit, charitable organization.
Before you gather up your items, it is best that you double-check before donating goods this holiday season. First, donors should check with their state attorney general or secretary of state’s office to find out if a charity is legitimate. Second, they should check with a charity-rating agency such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar or online resources such as GreatNonprofits or Philanthropedia to find out more about specific charities.
By checking with state authorities, consumers can quickly identify whether an organization is, in fact, registered as a legitimate charity. Rating agencies provide a wealth of information about charities, including how effective they are and whether their finances are in order.
On a practical level, consumers should be cautious of donation bins that don’t clearly state the mission and contact information for the organization. While some bins are operated by genuine charities, many actually benefit for-profit organizations. More and more states nationwide are now requiring that unattended bins be clearly marked, but it is important for people to make informed choices about their donations.
Donating to a charity you know and trust is always best way to be certain your donation is truly being used to serve the mission. Well known charities such as www.salvationarmy.org, www.thearc.org and www.goodwill.org agencies have donation centers located throughout their given service areas.
However, fraudulent charities can try to trick you by using slightly changed names of established groups, and to others who cannot provide you with information about the causes they are asking you to support.
So, check the "label" before you donate this holiday season, and on behalf of the charity you select this year, thank you for your support.