Avoid nonprofit scams this holiday season

Friday was the first day volunteers are ringing bells and accepting donations for the Salvation Army.

During the holidays many nonprofits do added fundraising, but how can you be sure your donation is actually going to a good cause?

Executive director of the United Way, Mary Kay Wolf, said when you’re giving to well-known organizations like the Salvation Army, the Boy & Girls Club, United Way and Red Cross, you have nothing to fear.

During the holidays, the Better Business Bureau says, the number of scams is continuing to rise.

Around the holidays nonprofit organizations do a little extra fundraising. Unfortunately, scammers try to do their own fundraising.

“Through the holidays I think there might be one or two really small-time scams that try to do that,” Wolf said.

Wolf said it’s not uncommon for people to knock on your door asking you to donate, claiming it’s for charity, but instead it goes into their pockets.

“You should ask how long the organization has been around, you should ask where exactly your donation is going, because if they can’t articulate that back to you then that’s a red flag,” Wolf said.

If you are in the giving spirit this holiday season, Wolf said do your homework before donating.

“If someone comes to your door, for instance, and asks for money for children during the Christmas season, they should have some sort of marketing material that you can be handed to be able to give you to wait; look into them a little bit,” Wolf said.

Wolf said a quick and simple search of the charity’s name on websites such as GuideStar and CharityNavigator is all it takes to verify a charity.

All nonprofits need to register with the state, so you can also search on the state of Wisconsin’s website.

Another tip: ask for a receipt.

“You should always ask for a receipt. Most reputable non-profits will have no problem giving you a receipt. They would also send you a thank you to act as your receipt,” Wolf said.

Wolf said don’t be swayed by someone stopping and knocking on your door, especially if you have never heard of the organization.

She says it can take a year or two to become a certified nonprofit, so don’t fall for someone telling you they’re a brand-new charity without doing homework.