Investigate Before You Donate

When we see disasters unfolding before our eyes on TV, such as the recent earthquake in Nepal, our first instinct is to rush to help, often by sending a donation. But before you write that check, make sure your contribution will go to a legitimate charity and to the people who need it most.

The Illinois Attorney General offers the following advice and suggestions:

To ensure that your donation goes to a legitimate charity, give wisely. Ask questions, gather information and donate only when you are satisfied that your money will be used in ways you consider appropriate.

More than 25,000 legitimate charitable organizations are registered with the office of the Illinois Attorney General. These organizations must provide information about their income, expenditures, programs and administrators.

If you are interested in learning more about a particular organization, or want to know if a charity that has solicited you for a donation is registered, please contact the Charitable Trust Bureau at 312-814-2595; 1-800-964-3013/tty,

Tips for donating provided by the Illinois Attorney General:

  1. ??Find out if the solicitor is a paid fund-raiser. If the solicitor is paid, a portion of your contribution will pay the salary. Illinois law requires paid fund-raisers to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they’re soliciting.
  2. Ask how much of your contribution will go to the charity. Illinois law requires professional fund-raisers to disclose this information if asked.
  3. Request written information. A legitimate charity will provide you with information outlining its mission, how your donation will be distributed, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
  4. Pay attention to names. Some phony charities intentionally use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations to mislead you.
  5. Contact the charity. Find out if the organization has authorized the use of its name. If it is not aware of the solicitation, you may be dealing with a sham solicitor.
  6. Be skeptical if a solicitor thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making. Check your records and don’t pay for a pledge you didn’t make.
  7. Refuse high pressure solicitations. Legitimate charities won’t push you to give on the spot.
  8. Be wary of charities that offer to pick up your donation.
  9. Don’t feel obligated. If charities send you unsolicited goods such as labels and note cards in the mail, you are under no obligation to contribute and may keep any unsolicited merchandise without donating.
  10. Consider fund-raising costs. When you buy merchandise or receive free goods as part of your donation, these items are paid for out of your contribution. That means less of your donation may go to the charity.
  11. Be wary if you are promised sweepstakes winnings in exchange for your contribution. You never have to donate to be eligible to win.
  12. Never pay in cash. For security and tax record purposes, pay by check. Write the official name of the charity on your check–do not use initials.


American Institutes of Philanthropy (AIP) – rates more than 400 charitable organizations using a variety of criteria, including percentage of revenue spent on administrative costs. The AIP website lists those charities which have received their highest rating, grouped by topic.

GuideStar National Database of U.S. Charities ?- provides detailed profiles of more than 640,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States. Search the database by organization name, keyword, city, state, zip code, type of organization or revenue size. Sponsored by the nonprofit Philanthropic Research, Inc.

How To Report Charity Fraud

You can help combat charity fraud in Illinois by reporting suspicious solicitations. Whenever possible, keep notes detailing the date and time of the call, the organization’s name, and the name of the solicitor. Try to remember their “pitch” as well as any other pertinent information.

To report possible charity fraud, call the Charitable Trust Bureau ?Office of the Attorney General?, 100 West Randolph Street?, Chicago, IL 60601

(312) 814-2595?; 1-800-964-3013/tty

You may also contact the ?BBB Wise Giving Alliance, 4200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 800, Arlington, VA 22203, 1-703 276-0100

Source: Illinois Attorney General

Hanna Benioff
Senior Services Coordinator
Phone: (630) 719-6682

Tagged with:

Comments are closed.