Q: I wish to donate money and clothing to charity during the holiday season. How do I know the money is being used as advertised by the charity?
A: Thank you for your thoughtfulness and generosity during the holidays. Because of technology and the creativity of charities, there are many different ways that donors can give to a worthy cause. Whether you are giving money, canned goods, used items or your time, BBB Wise Giving Alliance reminds donors that how you give is just as important as what you give.
According to the Giving USA Foundation, total estimated charitable giving in the United States rose 3.8 percent in 2010. The increase reflects the continued determination of every American to support charitable organizations even during challenging economic times.
Considering a tight budget this holiday season, it will be important for donors to be creative when giving back and supporting those who are less fortunate. When looking to make a contribution, it is important to take the time to do your research. You want to assure that your donation is used to help those you designate. How you give is just as important as what you give.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following five common ways that people donate to charities over the holidays and a few things to consider:
1) Give items. Many organizations solicit for donations over the holidays including coats, toys, and canned goods. Whatever you are donating, make sure the items are of good condition and that the recipient charity is accepting such items to help further its cause.
2) Give when you shop. Many charities have had great success partnering with businesses that agree to donate some amount of the purchase price from sales of items to a worthy cause. This type of cause-related marketing means that you can help while you shop. Check if the promotion identifies the actual or anticipated amount of the purchase price the charity will receive. Also, some businesses, like grocery stores, ask if you want to donate to a charity and have that amount added to your receipt. This is also called embedded giving. Inquire if the embedded promotion states which specific charity will receive the collected funds.
4) Give through text messaging. The option to give via text message became popular for donations in the wake of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. After texting a message to a number, the donation is tacked on to your cell phone bill. While donating via text is fast and easy for the donor, the actual money can take 60 to 90 days to reach the charity because the funds are forwarded after you pay the donation charge on your next monthly cell phone bill. During disaster giving periods such as after the earthquake in Haiti, however, cellphone carriers work to forward funds faster. Of course, charities welcome donations at any time during the year.
5) Give your time. In today's tight economy, you may not have money, but you can always give a little bit of your time to help support a worthy cause. In addition to volunteering around the holidays, you can also be a vocal supporter of a charity and help raise awareness among friends and family and on your Facebook page or blog.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance reports on more than 1,200 national charitable organizations at www.bbb.org/charity and determines if they meet 20 accountability standards addressing governance, finances and fund raising practices.
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.