How to Help Victims of the Colorado Wildfires

Many people have contacted our office to ask what they can do to assist Colorado wildfire victims. This guide will help you raise funds legally for or donate wisely to those victims.

 

Raising Funds

Under Colorado law, most charities that solicit contributions in Colorado are required to register with our office. [1] The law also makes two important distinctions:

  1. Volunteers who have written authorization from a charity to raise funds on the charity’s behalf are exempt from the registration requirement.

  2. Any money destined for a specific individual or family is considered a private gift, not a charitable donation. These gifts are not covered by the Colorado Charitable Solicitations Act. As a result, the law does not require the person raising the gift or the person or family receiving the gift to register. These gifts are not tax-deductible.

    Before giving money, you should ask if a bank account has been set up for the individual or family and verify with the bank that the account exists. You should also confirm that a need for the gift exists.

    If you choose to give, do not give cash. Write a check that is payable to the fund, not to an individual.

If you wish to start a nonprofit to help raise funds, our office has also created a checklist of issues to consider when forming a business or nonprofit. Before starting a nonprofit, you may want to seek guidance from an attorney, tax, or business consultant.

For additional assistance, you may want to contact a regional nonprofit resource center or an association, like the Colorado Nonprofit Association, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, or Community Resource Center. These organizations offer educational materials and advice on nonprofits, including volunteering for relief efforts and forming a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

Finally, the IRS has resources on its website to help people involved in providing disaster relief through charities.

 

Wise Giving Tips

  • Visit www.checkthecharity.com or our website (www.sos.state.co.us) to make sure a charity soliciting contributions is registered with the state.

  • If solicited for contributions by phone, ask for the solicitor’s registration number and the registration number of the charity he or she is representing.

  • Ask your tax advisor or the IRS if your donation will be tax deductible. The fact that a charity has a tax identification number does not necessarily mean your contribution is tax-deductible.

  • Ask anyone asking for money how much or what percentage of the donation will go to the charity.

  • Be wary if the charity does not want to provide information about its programs and finances. Reputable charities will gladly provide the information requested.

  • Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes these sound-alike names are simply intended to confuse donors.

  • Do not make cash donations. Donate with a check made payable to the charity.

  • If solicited in person, ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity.

  • Beware of unsolicited e-mail. Following a natural disaster, it is not unusual to hear reports of e-ails that claim to be solicitations from the Red Cross. The emails have links embedded in them that will take you to a fake Red Cross website. Further, such unsolicited email may spread computer viruses. Do not respond to any email soliciting donations from any organization. Instead, go directly to the organization’s website or call to make donations.

  • If you believe you have been solicited by a fraudulent charity, please file a complaint with us or the Attorney General via www.checkthecharity.com.

  • If you feel uncomfortable donating, simply say no.

 

[1] Section 6-16-104(6), C.R.S. (2011).