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Avoid scams—give to reputable charities
It’s the season for giving. You’re probably still working your way through that Christmas list. Perhaps your giving will extend beyond friends and family. The holidays are a popular time to give to charities.
Unfortunately, not every organization claiming to be a charity is legitimate. Fraudulent charities will grab your money and run. They'll even steal your identity, if they can.
These con artists know you want to help the less fortunate. Their organizations often look legitimate. They have professional-looking forms or fliers. They might employ telemarketers. They may even pick a name similar to a well-known charity.
Our old friend, spam
Many try to obtain contributions through e-mail. Much of this e-mail is unsolicited. In other words, it's spam. I never open that stuff, much less respond with a contribution. If you simply delete spam, you'll really reduce your chances of being taken.
I’m not trying to scare you away from giving. Your money can do great things, when given to a reputable charity. So give wisely, by checking out the charities you choose.
You can also check charities against reliable online databases. Several sites collect information on charities. If you don’t see a charity there, think about donating elsewhere.
These databases can be used for more than checking scam artists. They can help you maximize the effect of your donations. They contain great information on how specific charities use donations.
Charities have expenses, too
Rarely do 100 percent of donations go to a charity’s programs. Even charities have expenses. Fund-raising costs money. And non-volunteer staff has to be paid. But some charities make better use of your money than others.
Charity Navigator is a great resource. It rates the financial efficiency of thousands of charities. You can search by interest or geographic area. You’ll see the organizations' good points, as well as their problems.
It has a simple four-star rating system. You’ll also see a helpful pie-chart breakdown of a charity’s expenses. It will show you how much money goes to the charity’s programs. It also features helpful Top-10 and Bottom-10 lists.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance also dispenses charity information. It doesn’t rate and compare charities. Instead, it lists charities that meet accountability standards. The Alliance has detailed information on hundreds of organizations.
Network for Good
Or, check out Network for Good, which was founded by Cisco Systems, Yahoo! and AOL. It maintains details on hundreds of charities.
You can also donate to charities directly from Network for Good's site. In addition, it lists other good charity sites. And it offers tips to donors—for instance, how much to give and the tax aspects of giving.
Finally, let me give you a bit of advice. Spreading small donations among a bunch of charities isn’t very effective. It’s better to carefully choose a few solid organizations you identify with. Then, give to them in larger amounts.
More on giving:
* Don’t forget out troops
* Donate used cell phones
* Donate your old computer
NEW STOCK MARKET TERMS
CEO --Chief Embezzlement Officer.
CFO-- Corporate Fraud Officer.
BULL MARKET -- A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.
BEAR MARKET -- A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.
VALUE INVESTING -- The art of buying low and selling lower.
P/E RATIO -- The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.
BROKER -- What my broker has made me.
STANDARD & POOR -- Your life in a nutshell.
STOCK ANALYST -- Idiot who just downgraded your stock.
STOCK SPLIT -- When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.
FINANCIAL PLANNER -- A guy whose phone has been disconnected.
MARKET CORRECTION -- The-20-day period after you buy stocks.
CASH FLOW-- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.
YAHOO -- What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.
WINDOWS -- What you jump out of when you're the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.
INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR -- Past year investor who's now locked up in a nuthouse.
PROFIT -- An archaic word no longer in use.