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Tips for wise giving during the holidays

The holiday giving season is the most generous time of year for donors.With over 86,234 registered charities in Canada, plus countless other organizations and crowdfunding sites popping up every day, it is important to ensure that your contributions are going to trustworthy organizations. If you are planning to donate or to support a charity for the holidays, BBB is urging you to do research on the organization before handing over any cash or kind.

Here are a few tips to help you give wisely:

Watch out for name similarities. When charities seek support for the same cause, their names are often similar. Before you give, be sure you have the exact name of the charity you want to support, and the community they represent, in order to avoid a case of mistaken identity.

Review the website carefully. On any transparent charity website, you will see information about its mission and programs, measurable goals, and concrete criteria that describe its achievements. You should also be able to find information on their finances. Keep in mind, the type of work a charity does will affect its costs.

Avoid on-the-spot donation decisions from unfamiliar organizations. The holidays bring a higher frequency of donation requests outside public locations. Do not succumb to pressure to make an immediate giving decision. Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow as much as they do today.

Be wary of emotional appeals. Scammers have been known to exploit the holidays to make emotional pleas to donors. Instead of making an impulse decision based on emotion, do some research first to verify that your selected charity operates ethically and is actually legitimate.

Check that they have charity status. Do not assume every organization claiming to do good is a tax-exempt charity. Visit BBB’s give.org or the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to confirm if the organization is a registered Canadian charity under the Income Tax Act. Also, make sure your contribution is tax deductible.

Beware of donation schemes that promise you returns greater than your donation. The CRA strongly advises that you not participate in donation schemes or illegal tax filings.

Find out how the charity benefits from the collection and resale of used clothing and other in-kind gifts. Sometimes the charity receives only a small portion of the resale price of the item or may have a contractual arrangement to get a flat fee for every household pick-up, no matter the contents.

Not sure how to handle door-to-door solicitations?

Many businesses get door to door solicitations during the holidays with requests to give a donation to an organization in support of their mandate or cause. If you wish to give, but you are not certain if the charity is legitimate:

• collect the necessary information from the representative to verify their identity and affiliation to the charity.

• ask the charity representatives to provide detailed information about the cause.

• request the charity number that was issued to the organization by the CRA.

• find out if they issue tax deductible receipts to donors.

• confirm the various methods available to make a donation to them. Legitimate charities typically welcome donations at any given time.

If you or someone you know has engaged with or fallen victim to a scam, report it to BBB at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

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