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Tips, Red Flags to Consider When Donating to Charity


In times of natural disaster, we often see the best of humankind…but we also sometimes see the worst.  After the 2011 Joplin tornado, some scam artists posed as charities.  And that’s happening again on the East Coast in response to Hurricane Sandy. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson has these safety tips to consider when donating to charity.

Let’s start with the red flags:  According to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, you should be wary of so-called charities that tell you you’ve won a prize, ask you to forward soliciting information onto your friends, use high-pressure tactics, have names that sound very similar to reputable charities, and have poorly constructed websites.

Some charity scam artists claim to hold fundraisers for police and fire departments, and promise the donors  they will receive special treatment in return for a contribution.  If you see any of these tactics, watch out.

Here’s what you can do to prevent charity fraud, again, according to the Missouri Department of Public Safety:

  1. Request written information about the organization, including the full address and phone number.
  2. Check it out with the Better Business Bureau or the charity watchdog group
  3. Don’t be pressured to donate on the spot.
  4. Give directly to the charity whenever possible

Jeff Nene works for Convoy of Hope, which has four stars on It’s also part of the Better Business Bureau’s “Wise Giving Alliance.”

Nene suggests that if you’re going to give to a charity, do your homework—which includes talking to friends and family members about an organization before you give.

Another thing to research, he says, is efficiency.

“One of the primary factors is, how efficient are they with your dollar?  When you give a dollar, is 10 cents going to the victims, or is 90 cents going to the victims?”  Nene asks.

Nene said every charity has overhead—salaries, supplies, fundraising and program costs—but Convoy of Hope usually keeps its overhead under ten percent of its budget.

Right now, much of that other 90 percent is going to food, water, blankets and cleaning supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey.

For KSMU News, I’m  Jennifer Davidson.