How to ensure you’re donating to a legitimate charity

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The holiday season inspires generosity with so many to open up their wallet and contribute to charities.

But this time of year, some people want to take advantage of that. How can you make sure your money is going to the right place?

“Most charitable giving is done towards the end of the year,” said Tim Maniscalo, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana.

“A lot of people want to do it so they can get it on this year’s taxes and the scammers know that. What you’re going to find is a lot of unsolicited requests for charitable giving. You’re going to get emails, you’re going to get things on social media, you’re going to get things in the mail.”

How can you tell which requests are legitimate, and which are not? Maniscalo says bbb.org has a charity review section, but you can also go to give.org, or look up a non-profit on guidestar.org.

“Number two, you want to make certain that it is a registered charity, which means its a 501c3,” Maniscalo said. “Ask for things like their tax ID number, because if they don’t have that, you aren’t going to be able to take that off on your taxes.”

Dane Nutty is the executive director of the Indy Public Safety Foundation — a legitimate charity in Indianapolis. He talked with I-Team 8 about all the work legitimate charities put in to maintain non-profit status.

“The IRS has pretty strict rules on how nonprofits operate and we have to make sure that, not only for our programs and for our community, but for our donors as well, that we adhere to those restrictions,” said Nutty.

There’s one thing you can ask for that charities are required to share.

“The best thing would probably be the IRS form 990,” Nutty said. “That gives a really great amount of information on where we’re spending our money, whether that’s in overhead, fundraising, or in program itself – kind of the balance and the ratio between those and then some of the program that we offer and impact that we’re making.”