During this season, charities increase their requests for donations of time or money to their worthwhile causes. Although most of these organizations operate with very charitable intentions, there are some “charities” in which little of your money actually gets used for a worthy cause. The Michigan Attorney General’s office and Michigan nonprofits have partnered to create a helpful guide to charitable giving: Giving Wisely – Helping Michigan Citizens be Safe Donors.
The guide suggests that you get answers to the following questions before you donate:
1) What is the name, address and phone number of your organization? The charity should give you a street address and contact information – not just a post office box. If you are uncomfortable, tell the solicitor that you need more time to consider who you are donating to this year.
2) Is your organization registered to solicit donations by the Michigan Attorney General’s office? What is your registration number? Registration is NOT an endorsemen of a charity, but it does mean that the organization has filed annual financial statements and other documents with the Attorney General. Churches are permitted to solicit contributions without a registration, but other charities can be researched here or by calling (517) 373-1152.
3) What percentage of my donation does the charity keep after all fundraising costs are paid? The solicitor is required to give you an accurate answer when you ask this question, using this exact wording. This will help you determine whether the charity is using a professional fundraiser, who may take most of the donations and pass along as little as 10% to the charity.
Most charities are commited to helping solve problems. They will be willing to give you the time and answers to help you make an informed decision. But you need to ask for that information before you make a donation.