This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Charity Wariness

Posted By Paul

I'm certain that I've given money to a person that said they were in need when in fact they were swindling me. I figure that it's just part of life and chalk it up to experience. I would imagine that everyone out there has been taken advantage of by someone at some point in their life.

That said I thought I would share a few true stories from my life and a few rules that I now follow because of them.

Story 1:
I was in college and a woman stopped me and told me that her car had run out of gas and she needed a few dollars. She told me she would send me a check paying me back. I gave her $10 and my PO Box at school and I ended up getting a letter trying to sell me vitamin supplements.

Story 1a:
A friend of mine did the same thing only she gave the person the address for her apartment. The person actually showed up at their front door a week later asking for more money for some other problem.

Rule I put in place because of this:
I NEVER give money to people on the street (well that's not totally true, I will buy Girl Scout cookies and I drop money into the Salvation Army kettle during the holidays, but that's really about it).

Story 2:
I had an organization call once that was collecting donations for veterans in need. I pledged, got the mailing, sent the check, and only later realized that even though the organization I donated to was called "Veterans In Need" I couldn't actually find them anywhere on the internet.

Rule I put in place:
I never pledge donations over the phone. If someone calls I'll listen and tell them that they can send me some info and I'll look it over (which lets me research them on the internet), but if they insist on a specific pledge then I don't do it. There are just too many charities out there called "Veterans Childrens Fund" or the "Cancer Help Fund" that don't do anything except collect money and put it in the bank.

Story 3:
A gentleman came by the door and was collecting for a charity that was based on helping the homeless locally. I told him that I didn't donate money to charities that I'd never heard of. He gave me a phone number and said I could call to confirm the charity. I took the number and the name of the charity and told him I'd do some research on it, and that he was welcome to come back later. I looked up the charity and sure enough it was more or less what he said it was , but it had some political affiliations that I didn't agree with, so I told him I didn't want to donate when he came back.

Rule I put in place:
I NEVER give people money when they come to the door. I'll take any pamphlet they have, or even just the name of the organization they represent so that I can look it up and make sure it is what it says it is.

One of the great articles I found on this was a guide to giving to charities that has links to places that help you research charities. Here is the article:

Safe Charitable Giving.

It's a shame that I have to be so paranoid about giving money to charity, but sadly you really have to be careful to make sure that the money you are giving is actually going where you want it and doing some good.

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