TBC Information Network

Teal, Becker & Chiaramonte offering valuable insights, impressions and commentary on today's financial and business world.

Is this solicitation from a legitimate charity?

We all receive solicitations from charities, some of which we’ve never heard of before.  Most of us have limited amounts that we can contribute and we want our hard earned dollars to be put to good use by the charitable organizations.

How can we determine whether the request is from a legitimate charity, or a scam? Well for starters, legitimate charities need to file annual IRS Form 990. Websites like Guidestar.org provides donors with information on thousands of nonprofits (not limited to charities). You can create an account for free, and access the annual IRS Form 990 filings for the organizations.

If you are questioning a local charity, the NYS Attorney General’s Charities Bureau also posts the annual filings for all charities registered n NYS on its website: www.charitiesnys.com.  Click on the “Registration and Reporting” line, then “Search the Registry” to find the filings for that charity.

For more information on this topic, check out this recent article from Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates charities, which lists out 35 organizations that have been mislabeled as charities for various reasons. It’s possible that the organization you are questioning may just be on that list.