Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Offers Five Tips for Charitable Giving
November 30, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, FL – During the holidays, we are often asked to make a contribution or donation to a charity. Many people who give want to make a difference in someone's life, but may find it hard to choose which organizations are going to benefit the most from our gift. According to Charity Navigator’s Holiday Giving Guide, charities receive about 41 percent of their annual contributions between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers five tips today that consumers should consider before make a charitable contribution this holiday season. The department encourages consumers to do their research so they know where their money is going.
Some tips to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to donate to a charity include the following:
- Find out if the charity is properly registered. Most charities in Florida are required to register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You can check a charity’s registration status online at www.800helpfla.com or by phone at 1-800-HELP FLA (1-800-435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (1-800-352-9832). You should never give to a charity that you know nothing about, so request written literature and a copy of the charity's financial information. Charities are required by state law to provide it.
- Determine how your donation may be spent. The Gift Givers' Guide is a helpful tool in looking up financial information, including how much a charity spends on administrative costs, how much a charity spends on fundraising and how much a charity spends on program services. The department is prohibited by law from dictating how a charity spends its money, but provides this information so consumers can decide if donations are being spent wisely.
- Avoid high pressure tactics. Take your time, reputable charities are willing to wait for donations, so don’t let yourself be pressured into contributing on the spot. Don’t provide credit card numbers over the phone, don’t pay with cash and make all checks payable to the charity, not an individual’s name.
- Find out if your donations are tax deductible. The Internal Revenue Service recently revoked the tax exempt status of thousands of charities that failed to file paperwork, so ask for the organization's tax-exempt number and call the IRS for verification. For tax purposes, you will need to keep a record of all contributions made – no matter what amount. Request a receipt or printed copy of your donation so you will have a record for your taxes.
- Keep good records. Always obtain and save a printed copy of your donation or a receipt showing the amount of your contribution. If a tax deduction is important to you, be sure the receipt states that the donation is tax deductible. Even if an organization is tax exempt, your contribution may not be tax deductible. Ask for the charity's tax-exempt number issued by the Internal Revenue Service and call them for verification.
The department provides information on charities registered in Florida so consumers can make informed decisions about their donations, visit the Gift Givers' Guide or call 1-800 HELP FLA for more information.
For more information about the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.