Checking the Charities

(c) Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero
(c) Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

Reading the news about charity scandals has hit me hard. How can anyone pretend to be collecting for charity and then spend the money on vacations and cars?

GMLTJoseph, my publisher, requires its authors to donate a percentage of royalties to charity, and doesn’t specify to which charity we can contribute.

Each of the books in The Extraordinary Days series has, so far, has been a benefit for a different charity. I wrote or spoke to each charity to get some insight into their mission. (Some wrote back; some didn’t.) I used Charity Navigator to verify that I had the right name for the group. Many scam charities use sound-alike names so that you think you’re helping a trusted organization, just one of the facts I learned from The Federal Trade Commission’s charity scam page.

How many times have you received a phone call thanking you for your past contribution and asking you to help out again this year–but you don’t remember making a donation? I used to think I was forgetful. Nope, it’s a scam tactic. After all, if you gave before you must have checked them out, right?

Immediately after a disaster, among the first things to rise from the ashes are fake charities. People want to assist the victims of a disaster. But instead of giving to a charity that may or may not be real, why not give to an established one that’s truly helping out, for example, American Red Cross?

And that call purporting to be from your local fire house or police station? It probably isn’t. You can ask for the name, address, and phone number of the charity. If it’s supposedly in your neighborhood, it ​​shouldn’t have a different area code. Call your local organization and ask if they are using professional fundraisers. (Professional fundraisers are obligated to tell you how much of your donation actually goes to the charity, and whether it’s tax-deductible.) And if they say no, ask them where you should direct a charitable contribution.

I always donate to my local fire department. I know that they mail pledge cards. So I hang up on Benevolent Aid for Widows and Children of Fallen Heroes or similarly named groups. They may be tugging at my heartstrings with all those touching words, but I am reluctant to open my wallet to strangers unless I have thoroughly vetted them.

If you have purchased or downloaded any book in the Extraordinary Days series, you can feel good about where your money is going. Every charity that receives proceeds from these books has been thoroughly checked out, and in several cases has contributed expertise to the subplots of the books that features it.

Charitable giving is one of the greatest opportunities to make a difference in the world. Thanks for helping in this way.

 (c) Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

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