Your Eyes Open When Donating to Charities
During the holiday season, many generous Marylanders make tax-deductible donations
to charities. However, there are unsavory individuals who take advantage of
those with big hearts and pose as charities to pocket the money for themselves.
Consumers should be on the lookout, particularly during the holiday season,
to ensure that their dollars are going to the intended cause.
Remember to always follow these three rules:
with the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office at 1-800-825-4510
or www.sos.state.md.us/charity/charityhome.aspx before donating, to be
sure the charity is registered.
agree to give money over the phone or to a door-to-door solicitor.
Ask the caller or solicitor for written information about the charity
and read it
before making your decision.
out what percentage of your donation goes to the charity’s mission.
Charities must file reports with the Secretary of State disclosing
Don’t Be Rushed
These days, many charities solicit money by telephone. Telephone
solicitations can be legitimate requests for money, but it
is possible the caller
does not represent a genuine charity. Unscrupulous callers want
to get your money
They often ask for a credit card number or offer to send a courier
to pick up your check before you can change your mind. Similar
in response to door-to-door solicitations. When solicited by
phone or door-to-door, always ask the caller or solicitor to provide
you with written material about
the charity. Even if the charity has an urgent need for money,
the need will still exist after you read what they’ve sent.
Before you give, make sure you know:
full name, address and phone number of the charity.
the charity (and paid fund-raiser, if one is used) is registered
Maryland Secretary of State.
much of your donation goes to the charity and how much goes to the
who contacted you.
what purpose your contribution will be used.
your contribution is tax deductible.
How is Your Money Used?
Some charities use paid fundraisers to contact you for a donation.
These fundraisers may keep a portion of your gift as their
out how much of your gift goes to the charity. You might be better
off to send your
directly to the charity and by-pass the fundraisers.
The Charitable Organizations Division
Maryland’s Secretary of State’s
Office has a master list of thousands of registered
charities. The Office can provide information
purpose of a charity.
amount of money a charity raises.
percentage of the money collected that is used for charitable program
percentage that is used for administrative costs and fundraising.
Some solicitations should raise immediate red flags. Be wary if:
organization refuses to send you written material or financial
solicitor offers to send a courier to collect your contribution.
receive an invoice or bill for a pledge you never made.
name and logo closely resemble another charity with a similar purpose.
Bogus charities frequently
use names that
resemble those of
or natural disasters.
The only way
to be sure a
charity is legitimate is
to do some
Donors have the
right to ask
as many questions
or not to
donate. If the
you are considering
If you have any
call the Charitable
Division of the
State’s office at 1-800-825-4510
or go to www.sos.state.md.us/charity/charityhome.aspx.
Remember to call
before you write