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Before Donating: Is the Group Really a Charity?

Montanans can check with the IRS or at Guidestar.org to see if the charity they are donating to is registered as a 501(c)(3) organization. (contemplativechristian/Flickr)
Montanans can check with the IRS or at Guidestar.org to see if the charity they are donating to is registered as a 501(c)(3) organization. (contemplativechristian/Flickr)
December 30, 2016

HELENA, Mont. - There are more than 1.5 million charitable organizations in the United States, so it can be tough to figure out which ones to choose for your end-of-year donations.

Attorney Beverly Salhanick has this advice: First, familiarize yourself with the group's mission and find out exactly how it tackles the problem. Next, look online for information from other sources about the charity to see what others are saying about it.

Salhanick said it's helpful to check out the sites that grade the charities.

"Then you want to look at
These sites also will tell you what percentage of donation money actually goes toward the mission of the organization versus how much is used for administration.

Salhanick said the Better Business Bureau is another source of information, to see if the organization has any complaints lodged against it. She added that it's smart to check whether the group actually is considered a charity.

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

The average Montanan who itemizes deductions reported giving nearly $4,000 to charity in one recent year, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT