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Don't Be Fooled with a "Sound-Alike" in Year-End Charitable Donations

Consumer advocates advise people to do their research on charities before making an end-of-year donation. (L.Tong/GooglePlus)
Consumer advocates advise people to do their research on charities before making an end-of-year donation. (L.Tong/GooglePlus)
December 29, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine -- There are precious few days left to make a charitable donation for 2016, and consumer advocates suggest you take a moment to check out a charity before you give.

There are more than 1.5 million charitable organizations in the U.S. so it can be tough to figure out which ones to choose for your end-of-year donations. Paula Fleming, chief marketing and sales officer with the Better Business Bureau of Maine, cautions people to beware of sound-alike organizations that might cause you to miss the mark when making a donation.

"With so many charities in existence, mistaken identity is a common problem,” Fleming said. "Thousands of charities have 'cancer' in their name, for example, but no connection with one another. So, you want to make sure that the charity you are giving to is the one that you intend on giving to."

Fleming said it only takes a few minutes to check out a charity online, on websites for watchdog groups like Give.org and CharityNavigator.org. That's also where you can learn more about how the donation dollars are used by each charitable group.

And it's smart to check whether the group you're planning to donate to is actually considered to be a charity in the first place, said Attorney Beverly Salhanick.

"You can go to the Internal Revenue Service website and see if it's a 501(c)(3) organization, or you can check at Guidestar.org,” Salhanick said.

If you're interested in knowing how much your neighbors are giving, the average Maine resident who itemized deductions reported donating about $3,900 to charity in a year, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME