It’s 23 days until the end of the year 2006, and many Iowans are considering donating to a favorite cause or charity, for sentimental or tax reasons. Debra Moore with the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division says you’d better watch out — there are a lot of organizations out there ready to take advantage of your goodwill.
Moore says money doesn’t make it to the purpose the donor intends it for if it’s intercepted by a scam, so her agency is letting Iowans know what to be alert for if someone calls, mails or comes to the front door asking for donations. She says first you should ask if they’re a paid professional fundraiser — because if they are, that person’s keeping a chunk of your donation.Ask them about the breakdown of the money that they collect — how much goes for their own administrative costs, and how much to the good cause.
Of course you have to hope that the people you question will give you truthful answers. It’s always a good idea to ask them to send you something in writing so you can look it over yourself closely, before making any decisions. You can do some checking on the organization that way, instead of being “on the spot” to decide on a donation right there and then.
She warns you should be alert to shifty fundraisers that make up a name similar to a real organization. “They get something that sounds like the heart association…maybe the American cancer fund, the cancer fund of America, the cancer society, you know, all these variations.” So if you’re thinking about giving, she says it’s up to you to find out what the local organization is.
Start with the phone book, and verify the real name of a real local charity, and how you’d contact them. She says it’s up to you to ask hard questions, and a legitimate charity should be able and willing to answer them all.