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Check out charities before donating

Posted at 7:07 PM, Dec 01, 2015

Whether you're still in a giving mood or just want to get in those last minute tax deductions, believe it or not there is no agency in our state that verifies whether charities are real or fake.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office can investigate, but that's only after a complaint has been filed.

So what do you do when a random charity solicits you at home or calls you asking for money?

Is it safe to give to them? Maybe, maybe not.  

But there are several ways to find out.

Ask a lot of questions. Who are they helping? Where do they operate? Physically go and take a look at the programs they claim to provide.

Follow the money. Check their IRS 990 tax form.  Find the amount spent on program service. Divide that by the total expenses then multiply by 100. That's the percentage spent directly on programs and services and it should be at least percent.  Some states require all charities to make it public.  Arizona is not one of them. Only veterans’ charities are required to make that information public through the Secretary of State Office.  Which means you'll have to get that information yourself.

You can get a copy and explanation from websites like Charitynavigator.org,  Guidestar.org, and Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.

Finally, don't be pressured to give immediately. If the charity needs your money today...They'll need it next week too--after you've had time to check them out

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