SAN FRANCISCO – With the holiday season and the end of the tax year approaching, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued consumer tips on how Californians can make the most of their charitable giving and avoid scams.
In 2014, Americans gave more than $350 billion to charities and nonprofit organizations. This year, many Californians will look to help the less fortunate or support a favorite cause by donating to a charity. Unfortunately, with so much money in play, scammers will continue to look for ways to prey on people’s generosity. Attorney General Kamala D. Harris offers the following tips for Californians to make sure their charitable giving will benefit worthy causes and not scammers.
TIPS FOR DONATING WISELY
Research the Charity
The number one tip for consumers this holiday season is to research the charity you are considering donating to and make sure it is legitimate and trustworthy. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs, or other social media are legitimate.
Private watchdog organizations have created spending standards for charities and issued reports based on those standards. These are great resources for consumers to use in researching your intended charities. Three such organizations are: Wise Giving Alliance (www.give.org), Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Foundation (www.bbb.org), and American Institute of Philanthropy (www.charitywatch.org).
To check the status of a charity, visit http://rct.doj.ca.gov/Verification/. Other sites that can provide helpful information in checking the status of your charity are: www.charitynavigator.org, or www.give.org. For more detailed information and tips, check the Attorney General’s Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors at: http://oag.ca.gov/charities/publications.
If a solicitor contacts you on behalf of a charity, ask if he or she works for a commercial fundraiser, and verify whether that the commercial fundraiser is registered with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts, as it is unlawful for unregistered commercial fundraisers to solicit donors in California. You can also check to see how much a commercial fundraiser raised for the charity in the past by reviewing the Attorney General’s Commercial Fundraising Reports, which summarize by year the results of the charitable solicitation campaigns conducted in California by for-profit fundraisers. Historical figures show that a solicitation campaign conducted by a commercial fundraiser returns to the charity, on average, about 50 percent or less of the contributions received. A commercial fundraiser retains the remainder in the form of fees and expense reimbursements. To check these publications visit: http://oag.ca.gov/charities/publications.
Other Helpful Tips for Donors
ADDITIONAL CONSUMER RESOURCES
The California Attorney General’s Guide to Charitable Giving: http://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/charities/publications/CharitiesSolicitation.pdf
Consumers who believe they are a victim of a charitable giving scam can file a complaint with the Department of Justice by using the following form: http://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/charities/charitable/ct9.pdf