5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Donation Scams



Giving to worthy causes on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become a tradition for people who want to help charities and nonprofits. In fact, 2018 marks the seventh year of #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back, that is often regarded as the start of the charitable season. Last year, #GivingTuesday hit a record of $274 million in donations, raised from more than 2.5 million contributors. This was a 55% increase over 2016.

As contributors participate in #GivingTuesday, donors should consider the public misconceptions that were identified in the recently released Give.org Donor Trust Report. BBB Wise Giving Alliance (WGA) urges donors to research charities before giving to ensure that their generous contributions are going to trustworthy organizations. BBB WGA evaluations give donors insight into charity trustworthiness so that their hard-earned dollars go to charities that operate ethically.

“With American charities receiving approximately one-third of their annual donations during the holiday season, your Better Business Bureau is urging donors to give thoughtfully prior to donating their time and money,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “Donors should verify that charities they intend to support are well-managed, make good use of donations and are truly deserving of their contributions.”

Keep these 5 BBB tips in mind to avoid holiday donation scams and give with your head as well as your heart this holiday season:

  1. Watch out for name similarities. With so many charities in existence on a national and regional basis, beware of mistaken identity. Before you give, know which charity you’re actually supporting and watch out for copycats. In addition, don’t automatically assume that charity size and regional scope signal trustworthiness. 67% of BBB survey respondents said they trust local charities more than national and 62% trust small organizations more than large ones. However, charities of all sizes and scope demonstrate good and bad accountability practices.
  2. Avoid on-the-spot donation decisions from unfamiliar organizations. The holidays bring a higher frequency of donation requests outside public locations, by phone, mail and social media. A charity that can use your donation today will welcome it just as much tomorrow or next week. If you make a donation online, always confirm the website is secure and that the URL begins with “https.” If donating by check, always make the check out directly to the organization and not to any professional fundraiser or solicitor’s name.
  3. Be wary of emotional appeals. Donors need to be mindful that marketers may exploit the holidays to make emotional pleas more powerful. Watch out for appeals that bring tears to your eyes, but tell you nothing about how your donation will be used or how the charity operates.
  4. Ask for details. If you are unfamiliar with an organization, don't hesitate to ask for written information about programs and finances and a copy of the charity’s Annual Report. Ask for specific details if a charity is claiming that your “local” region will benefit or that it has an on-the-ground presence in a specific area. Likewise, when buying items that promise to contribute a portion of the price to charity, ask what that “portion” is and whether there are limits on the total contribution.
  5. Rely on standards and avoid charities that fail to disclose. Check with BBB Wise Giving Alliance at give.org to see if a national charity meets BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. BBB evaluates charities by looking beyond finances and overhead and examines governance, effectiveness, fundraising practices and more. Although participation is voluntary, national charities that don’t disclose requested information to BBB WGA should raise a critical flag for donors.

BBB is reminding donors that charities are required to register with the Department of State – Bureau of Charitable Organizations, before soliciting in the state of Pennsylvania. For the appropriate office in all other states, check with the National Association of State Charity Officials.

Visit give.org for more helpful tips on wise giving and check out your Better Business Bureau’s Holiday Resource Center and the BBB Holiday Helper campaign for additional advice for the holiday season.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including your BBB Serving Western Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1931 and serves the 28 counties of Western PA.