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Don't Be Taken by Year-End Giving

December 28, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Year-end charitable donations are important for many West Virginians - but it's just as important to do some research before making them.

Giving has tax advantages, and many people donate large sums of money to their favorite causes at year's end. Scam artists know that, says Tom Ayer, director of estate and asset services for the American Cancer Society, and they're out in force during the holiday season.

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

High-pressure tactics or charities which ask you to send cash are strong warning signs, says Jill Miles, in charge of consumer affairs at the West Virginia Attorney General's office, She says the key is knowing exactly to whom you are giving.

"You should pick them, they shouldn't pick you. I would give to an organization that I know the characters and the people that are involved before I would give to someone who calls me on the phone."

If tax purposes are part of the reason to make donations, Ayer says, donors should be sure their money is going to an organization that is recognized as charitable or nonprofit by the Internal Revenue Service.

"It's always important that the charitable organization itself be a qualified 501(c)3 organization. That's the gold standard, in terms of getting the proper charitable deduction."

Reputable charities are more than happy to provide people with all the necessary details to donate wisely, Ayer says. The West Virginia Secretary of State's office keeps a searchable list of charities at WV.SoS.gov, and organizations such as Charity Navigator and Guidestar are good resources. More information on ways to give is online at cancer.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV