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Choosing a Charity

If you’re fortunate enough to have extra money, it’s always nice to give back. But with millions of charities in this country alone, deciding where to donate can be a challenge.  Here’s the first big question to tackle: Go global or look local?

Supporting your neighborhood soup kitchen or animal shelter can directly benefit your community. Plus, local groups are often incredibly efficient with spending, which means the majority of the money you give will likely go straight to the causes that need it the most.

Prefer a global reach? Charities like United Way, Habitat for Humanity and American Red Cross have the scale to help millions in their hour of greatest need.

When it comes to choosing a charity to support, remember this golden rule. Unless an organization is a registered 501c3 non-profit, it’s not a real charity — and you have no way of knowing where your money is actually going.

Not only does verifying an organization’s legitimacy ensure your hard earned money will be put to good use. It also means you’ll be eligible for a tax deduction.  Legitimate charities will gladly share their tax ID, along with clear insights into fund allocation (including information about how much of the money goes to programming rather than administrative expenses). If they shy away from transparency, consider it a red flag.

Start your research online. Take a peek at the organization’s social media activity. Do they engage often? Next, look at their website and read about who they are and what they do. Beware of charities with a limited public presence.

To ensure they’re legit, check them out on platforms like the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance, the IRS’s charity search, Charity Navigator, Guidestar and Charity Watch. These sources track official 501c3 registrations and offer transparency on fund allocation.

Donating is a wonderful thing. Just be sure to do it wisely.

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