Charitable Contributions

Intro: Did you ever hear the expression: "no good deed goes unpunished"? Recently, a 13 year old girl, along with an older gentleman, asked local business owners to contribute to a Muscular Dystrophy Association bike ride, and in exchange, they would receive discounted Cedar Point season passes. In return, they just pocketed the cash.

So how do you protect yourself against scams like this? Here to help you make sure your contributions actually go to a legitimate charity is attorney Michael Solomon.

Jeff: How big a problem are fraudulent charitable schemes like this one?

Mike: This is a big problem. All you have to do is take a look at the Federal Trade Commission and Ohio Attorney General Websites to find dozens of scams against people wishing to donate to charities. For example, the FTC has just issued a warning about charity scams in connection with the recent floods and tornadoes in the Midwest.

Jeff: How can we protect ourselves?

Mike: Let me give you 3 quick tips:

  1. Ask for the name of the charity if the solicitor doesn't provide it. Then call the charity and make sure it has authorized this solicitation.
    If the businesses in Northeast Ohio had followed this advice, they would have discovered that the supposed Muscular Dystrophy bike ride was a scam.
  2. Ask what percentage of your donation will support the cause, and how much goes for fundraising and administrative costs. Some legitimate charities have professional fundraisers that wind up with 70% or more of the contributions. You can also check the information at www.opm.gov\cfc\03-lists\2003 NationalList-Alphaindex.doc.
  3. Don't provide credit card or bank information until you've checked out the charity, and avoid cash gifts - - checks are better, made payable to the organization, not an individual.

Jeff: Where can we get more information about a charitable solicitation?

Mike: The first place to consider is the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. The BBB has developed a 20 point rating system of thousands of charities that can give you background on these charities and see if they satisfy the BBB's standards. The website is www.bbb.org.

You could also call or email the Ohio Attorney General's office which handles complaints filed against charities in Ohio.

There are plenty of honest and well run charities. Unfortunately any time you spend money you need to take it upon yourself to do a little leg work to make sure you don't waste your money.