Alex Honeysett
August 22, 2013

How Do You Know If a Charity is Legit?

Finally, will all the money spent around back to school shopping, retailers are anxious to give you a way to give back in the process. It's a great marketing tool for them, and it really does help others, so why not? 

Most places that sell school supplies will have a drop box this time of year for people to donate supplies as they shop, so go ahead and pick up an extra pack of pens for a kid in need. However, there are ways to do a bit more. 

A good place to shop in general is at a site called Up to 30% of your purchases in some cases go back to charity, and you can choose the cause you'd like to support before you buy. 

Finally, if you want to get involved in a bigger way, we like, an organization that finds kids in need and helps them out with school supplies. You can give money, supplies, or even volunteer with them.

You’ve found a charity you’re passionate about, and you’re ready to donate your time or hard-earned cash to support their cause.

But before you do, how can you be sure it’s legit? Here are four questions to get answered before you hand over last night’s babysitting money or make plans to attend this weekend’s food drive.

Is the charity tax exempt? Also known as Section 501(c)(3) organizations, these charities have been identified as non-profits by the IRS. To check, search for your company on the IRS’ database here.

Does the charity provide contact details? Every charity organization should post easy ways to get in touch with them. Usually, this is found in a “contact” section, listed at the top or bottom of a website. If there isn’t a contact section, is there a phone number or email address listed anywhere on the site? If not, stay away.

If there is, and you’re still not 100% sure, reach out and ask to speak to someone. Questions worth asking include where you’ll be volunteering, what you’ll be doing and with how many other people, or where your money is going and what percentage will actually be donated (you want it to be close to 100%).

Has the charity had any news coverage? If yes, and it’s good, you can assume that it’s a real charity. If yes, and it’s not good, what did the article say? Even if the charity is legit, it may still have questionable operating processes you’d likely want to stay away from.

Does the charity’s website or emails give you the creeps? Charities don’t have endless cash to spend on marketing material. But they should have a presence that makes you feel confident about their mission – and their legitimacy. When in doubt, pick another charity that’ll help support the cause.

You want to make sure your money or time is being used in an appropriate way to support the cause you feel most passionate about. But most importantly, you want to keep yourself safe. To double-check the legitimacy of your charity and to see how it ranks next to its peers, check out Charity Navigator and

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