Dealing with Incessant Donation Requests

How to manage your charitable donations

Who hasn't received that annoying phone call at dinnertime soliciting this or that, wasting your time while your food gets cold? In 2003, the federal government passed legislation prohibiting telemarketers from calling any person in the National Do Not Call. However, charities were not part of this legislation. Only if a third-party marketer calls you on behalf of a charity may you ask them to remove your name from the list. In most cases, the telemarketer will honor this request. If they call again, they could face a possible fine of $11,000.

If you receive a phone call from a prospective charity, there are several things you can do. First, find out who's calling. Is it an employee of the charity, a volunteer or some paid telemarketer simply meeting a quota? Most telemarketers care very little about the organization for which they're raising funds. They simply want to make money. The volunteer, on the other hand, gives their time and possibly their money to the cause and will gladly answer your questions. In fact, they have to, it's part of the donor bill of rights.

If you determine that the caller is a professional telemarketer, ask them how much of your donation will go to the charity. Most professionals keep between 20 percent and 90 percent of the money raised for their clients. By law, they must answer your question. Whoever is calling, ask them to send you materials detailing the mission of the charity and its goals for the future, as well as financial statements outlining the health of the organization. While you wait for the materials, do some online investigating, including checking out Charity Navigator to determine the reputation of the charity in question. If everything seems to meet with your approval, contact the charity directly so that they'll receive 100 percent of your donation.

You should also ensure that the charity doing the fundraising is in fact the organization you think it is. Sometimes, scam artists create names similar to those of reputable organizations to fool possible donors. It's quite a common occurrence and can be a very expensive mistake. In addition, make sure that any charity that calls has 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status. If it doesn't, you won't be able to claim your tax deduction.

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