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Illinoisans Encouraged to Take a Holistic Approach to Holiday Giving

PHOTO: As Illinoisans reach into their wallets to donate to those less fortunate this holiday season, consumer experts say it's critical they do their research to avoid fraudulent charities and scam activists. Photo credit: Dodgerton Skillhause/Morguefile.
PHOTO: As Illinoisans reach into their wallets to donate to those less fortunate this holiday season, consumer experts say it's critical they do their research to avoid fraudulent charities and scam activists. Photo credit: Dodgerton Skillhause/Morguefile.
December 9, 2014

CHICAGO - The holiday season is a time of giving, but Illinoisans are being encouraged to look more closely at the "big picture" of a charity before donating to it.

A recent study from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) revealed people consider the finances of an organization to be the most important indicator of trust.

Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois, cautions that basing giving decisions on only one factor can give donors a false sense of confidence.

"There really needs to be a holistic review of a charity and not just one specific area," says Bernas. "One area is not going to give you a good indicator of how good the charity is."

He says donors should consider several factors when considering a charity's accountability, including finances, governance, fundraising, effectiveness reporting, and appeal accuracy.

Bernas adds that giving wisely to charitable organizations also includes ensuring you're not getting ripped off by a con artist.

"Consumers towards the end of the year are in the gift-giving mood," he says. "They're also trying to get in their last-minute donations for tax purposes. A scam artist knows that and will take advantage of the situation."

He says due diligence is crucial to ensuring a donation is going where it is intended.

"Some of the charities that use telemarketers to seek funding sometimes pay 90 cents on the dollar back to the telemarketer," says Bernas. "Only 10 percent ends up going to the charity."

Bernas says other red flags include high-pressure appeals, door-to-door visits, or someone who will not provide a receipt for the donation.

Charities can be researched at the Better Business Bureau website, or at Give.org or the Charity Navigator website.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL