To learn how to help those affected by floods, we recommend checking www.helpcoloradonow.org,
a partnership between the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency
Management (DHSEM) and Colorado Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
If you decide
to make a financial contribution or raise funds on behalf of a charity, our
office offers the following wise giving tips:
law, most charities that solicit contributions in Colorado are required to register
with our office.  The law also makes two important distinctions:
- Volunteers who have written authorization from a
charity to raise funds on the charity’s behalf are exempt from the registration
- Individuals exclusively making an appeal for
funds on behalf of a specific individual name in the solicitation are exempt
from the registration requirement, as long as all of the proceeds of the
solicitation are given to or expended for the direct benefit of the specified
individual. Any money destined for a specific individual or family is
considered a private gift, not a charitable donation, and they are not
If you wish to
establish a fund to assist those affected by a tragedy, be especially careful
to respect the wishes of the individuals’ family and friends. The law requires
that you have written permission to use the names or photographs of any person
or organization in your fundraising appeals, so be aware that your
well-intentioned efforts could be derailed by harsh criticism from affected
parties’ families if you fail to obtain their permission first.
and transparent about how the funds will help affected parties or their
families and how quickly collected funds will be spent. A best practice is to
post an accounting of the fund on your website and update the receipts and
expenditures frequently in order to head off any concerns about transparency.
Donors may not be satisfied to wait for the results of a financial audit of the
assistance fund should be received and administered by a responsible third
party, such as a bank, CPA, or attorney.
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.
The IRS has
resources on its website to help people involved in providing disaster
relief through charities.
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
- When considering gifts to an individual or family, ask the
fundraiser whether there is a trust or deposit account established for
their benefit. Contact the banking institution to verify the existence of
the account, and check locally to confirm that there really is such a
- When you decide to contribute to an individual or family, do not
give cash. Contribute by check that is payable to the charity or fund, not
to an individual, and mail directly to the charity.
- You cannot deduct contributions earmarked for relief of a
particular individual or family, even if they are made to a qualified
charitable organization. Ask whether the charitable contribution is tax
deductible, and verify with your tax advisor or the IRS. The fact that a
charity has a tax identification number does not necessarily mean your
contribution is tax-deductible. Ask for a receipt showing the amount of
the contribution and stating that it is tax-deductible.
- Ask what portion of the contribution will be paid to the charity
and make a note of which specific programs your contribution will support.
- 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 click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in
texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will
be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on
something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don’t assume
that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have
already been vetted.
- Beware of newly formed charitable organizations. These may be
formed with the best of intentions, but an existing charity is more likely
have the sound management and experience to quickly respond to the
situation, and it will have a track record which you can review.
- Call the charity to see if it is aware of the solicitation and
has authorized the use of its name.
- Verify with local charities any claims that the soliciting
charity will support local organizations.
- Ask for the caller’s registration number with the Secretary of
State, and then confirm that the organization is registered and current
with its filings at www.checkthecharity.com.
- If the charity is required to file the federal form 990, 990-EZ,
990-N, or 990-PF with the IRS, ask to see it. You are also entitled to see
a copy of its IRS Application for Tax-Exempt Status and Determination
If you believe
that you have been solicited by a fraudulent charity, please file a complaint (PDF)
with the Secretary of State, or the Attorney General (800-222-4444.)
Section 6-16-104(6), C.R.S. (2011).