Check the charity before you donate

As we enter the Christmas holiday season, many area residents think about donating to charitable causes. We’re glad that they do.

Locally, 100-plus Women Who Care in Dickinson County is a leading contributor to local causes. The group also sets a good example of how to give wisely.

The 100-plus Women Who Care group researches each charity before the donation is made. To ensure that the donation is being used as it is intended, we suggest that area residents follow their lead.

Giving wisely is important. With all the scams and come-ons out there, it’s important to know where your donation is going.

To help, the Michigan Nonprofit Association, Council of Michigan Foundations, Michigan Association of United Ways, and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette have developed a helpful publication designed to provide Michigan donors with guidance for making wise donations to charity this holiday season.

“Michigan donors have generous hearts, but it is important to do your homework before contributing to charities, because every dollar makes a difference,” said Schuette. “Our advice in Giving Wisely will help hard-working families avoid scams and ensure their donations do the most good in our communities.”

“We are proud to partner again with the Attorney General’s office to provide the community with such an important tool to assist in their plans to support their desire to give,” said Donna Murray-Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer, Michigan Nonprofit Association

As the holiday season approaches and many charities begin end-of-the-year fund-raising appeals, the free Giving Wisely brochure provides timely and critical advice to anyone considering a donation.

The brochure informs Michigan residents how best to avoid scams when making their charitable contributions and offers suggestions for what questions to ask to ensure their gift will go towards programming instead of administrative costs.

“We are pleased to support this important tool to assist Michiganders with their charitable giving. Individual givers are critical to nonprofits helping to meet the needs of so many,” said Rob Collier, President and Chief Executive Officer, Council of Michigan Foundations.

“Michigan charities need support from donors now more than ever; Giving Wisely equips Michiganders with the right questions and resources to make that gift count for both the donor and charity,” adds Scott Dzurka, President and Chief Executive Officer, Michigan Association of United Ways.

Giving Wisely also reminds residents to carefully consider which charities to financially support and encourages donating time and talents to engage with the charity’s work directly. The Giving Wisely brochure is available for download and can be read on the Attorney General’s website

Some tips from Giving Wisely for making the actual donation include:

– Make your contribution by check or credit that you have a record of your donation.

– Make the check payable to the organization, never to an individual.

– Ask for and keep receipts from the organization indicating the amount of your donation, the date and its intended use.

– Don’t give your credit card numbers or other personal information to someone unsolicited who has called you. Also, use caution when donating by telephone or online unless you independently verify the organization contacting you. If you are concerned, ask the organization how it will use your donation and safeguard your information.

– When donating online, check to see that you are using a secure site for financial transactions – one starting with an “https://” (not “http://“). Even secure sites can be “spoofed” by scammers – for more information, see the Attorney General’s Consumer Alert on fraudulent emails at

Some questions to ask include:

– What are the organization’s purposes and programs? All charities have a specific charitable mission and provide programs and services to carry out that mission. Choose a charity with a mission that matches your own passions.

– How much of your donation will go towards programming rather than administrative and fund-raising expenses? Charities use your donations not only to carry out their charitable programs, but also to pay for administrative costs and fund-raising. While administrative and fund-raising costs are a necessary part of operating an efficient charitable program, ask questions to make sure the charity is making wise decisions. Consider visiting the Better Business Bureau,, for more information.

– Is the donation tax deductible? Only donations to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations on your personal income tax form as charitable donations. Ask if the organization has received this tax-exempt status from the IRS and ask if the donation is eligible for other tax credits.

– Is the organization good at what it does? Ask about the organization’s recent accomplishments and what its goals are for the next year or two. Make sure that an established organization has a successful track record. If it is a local charity, visit to learn more about the effectiveness of their programs.

– Is the organization registered to solicit funds from the public? Under Michigan law, most charities must be before they solicit funds. To find out if a charity is registered, visit If an organization is not listed or you would like more information, contact the Attorney General’s office at (517) 373-1152 or to check up on the organization.

Before you write that check, feel free to call the Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Section (517) 373-1152 to inquire about a charity or check out information that a charity has provided to you.