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Don't Be Taken By Year-End Giving

December 19, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - For many Hoosiers, year-end charitable donations are important, but you do need to do your homework before making them. There are a lot of tax advantages to giving, and many people donate big chunks of money to their favorite causes at year's end. Scam artists know that, and are out in force during the holiday season.

Tom Ayer, director of estate and asset services for the American Cancer Society, says those making appeals aren't always quite what they seem.

"Copycat organizations can sometimes dedicate, you know, up to 85 or 90 percent of their money towards paying the people raising the funds, as opposed to going to the mission itself."

Ayer says the online tool GuideStar can help you determine where your donation dollars will have the most impact.

"They do a nice job of rating how an organization does when it comes to dedicating resources toward the mission, as opposed to, you know, the administrative costs and that type of thing."

He says if part of the reason you're making donations is for tax purposes, be sure your money is going to an organization that is recognized as charitable or nonprofit by the IRS.

"It's always important that the charitable organization itself be a qualified 501C3 organization. That's the gold standard, in terms of getting the proper charitable deduction."

Ayer says reputable charities are more than happy to give you all the necessary details to donate wisely. Also, organizations such as Charity Navigator, Guidestar and the Better Business Bureau are good sources of information.

Find information on ways to give at tinyurl.com/73pbfa9. Charity information is at charitynavigator.org.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN