8. Tips on Wise Giving

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Even though donors can usually rely on charities to be good stewards of their donations and to operate an efficient organization, it is still very important to be informed and cautious when considering your charitable giving options, especially in response to telephone solicitations.  Unscrupulous solicitors rely on the fact that many donors do not monitor the use of their donations, so unsuspecting donors usually do not even become aware of the fact that their generous and heart-felt contributions may have been wasted.  Your charitable contributions should actually reach the people in need of your assistance.

The Secretary of State offers the following wise giving tips to make sure that your charitable contributions are being used by legitimate organizations as you intended and not lining the pockets of scam artists:

  • Ask for the caller’s registration number, 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 a copy of its IRS Application for Tax-Exempt Status and Determination Letter.

  • Ask what portion of the contribution will be paid to the charity and make a note of which specific programs your contribution will support.

  • 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.

  • Do not pay in cash. Donate by check made payable to the charity or fund- never to an individual- and mail directly to the charity. 

  • Be wary if the charity does not want to provide information about its programs and finances. Reputable charities welcome questions from potential donors, so don’t hesitate to ask questions or request materials by mail.

  • Be wary if the organization says you agreed to make a contribution and you don’t remember doing so.

  • Be especially wary of an organization that offers to send a courier to pick up your check.  If solicited in person, ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity.

  • Call the charity to see if it is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name.  Certain well-known charities such as the Red Cross will never solicit donations over the phone.

    Red Cross will never solicit by telephone, but it participates in mobile giving and makes email solicitations.  They will never ask for account information in an email, however, nor will they ask you to make a deposit into a bank account.  They will direct you to their website to make donations through secure transactions.

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

  • If the solicitor claims that the charity will support local organizations, call the local groups to verify.

  • Hang up if the solicitor suggests you will receive special benefits or favorable treatment from a police, sheriff, patrol, firefighting, or other law enforcement agency or department of government, or that you will receive unfavorable treatment if you fail to make a contribution.

  • Beware of unsolicited email.  Instead, go directly to the organization’s website or call to make donations.

  • Be aware that charities are only exempt from the Colorado No Call list if they are properly registered with the Secretary of State.

  • Be aware that The Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule requires paid solicitors to put you on the charity’s internal Do Not Call list upon request.

  • Be aware that paid solicitors who make telephone calls into Colorado must disclose that they are paid to make the solicitation, and they must provide the name of the telemarketing company for whom they work and the name and telephone number of the charity on whose behalf they are soliciting.

  • Discuss the donation with a trusted family member or friend before committing the funds.

  • You have the right to cancel a monetary pledge until 12 midnight of the third business day after the day on which you receive a written confirmation of contribution.  You have the right to cancel a nonmonetary pledge until 12 midnight of the first business day after the day on which you receive a written confirmation of contribution to cancel.

  • You cannot deduct contributions earmarked for relief of a particular individual or family, even if they are made to a qualified charitable organization.  Potential donors should inquire whether there is a trust or deposit account established for the benefit of the individual or family, contact the banking institution to verify the existence of the account, and check locally to confirm that there really is such a need.  When you decide to contribute to an individual or family, do not give cash. 

  • If you feel uncomfortable about a solicitor on the phone, just say “No, thank you” or hang up.


If you believe that you have been solicited by a fraudulent charity, please file a complaint with the Secretary of State (PDF) (303-894-2200, option 2) or the Attorney General (1-800-222-4444).



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