Donors often ask...
I can’t find a report on the charity I’m looking for. Does this mean the charity isn’t legitimate?
No. Absolutely not! There are more than one million charities that have received charitable tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS). BBB does not attempt to report on them all. BBB reports on charities about which donors seek to know more information. Therefore, omission from our list has no negative significance. It simply means that we have not evaluated the organization … at least, not yet. You can let us know about a charity by submitting information online.
How can I learn more about a charity – whether or not they participate in BBB’s program?
First, and foremost, the best source of information about a charity is from the charity. Start by contacting the charity to request a copy of its most recent annual report and IRS Form 990. The charity should provide this information to you in a timely manner, and these materials should give you a general idea of how the charity will spend your contribution. If the charity is reluctant to provide this information, it should raise a red flag for you.
You can also contact the government office responsible for registering charities in your state. This office may be able to provide some information about the charity. You may be asked to pay a copying fee and wait several weeks for your request to be processed. What information is available varies from state to state, as do the fees involved and the length of time needed to process a request.
Finally, Guidestar, a nonprofit organization, maintains an online database on thousands of nonprofit organizations, based on their IRS Form 990 filings.
The charity appeal I received asks that donations be sent to a PO Box in a city that is different from the charity’s physical location. Is this cause for concern?
Generally, no. Charities that conduct major direct mail campaigns frequently hire outside firms to collect and deposit funds on behalf of the organization. Soliciting organizations often contract with banks or other parties to ensure all checks are accounted for and promptly deposited. These firms may be located in other areas. As a result, the PO Box may in fact be a means to ensure greater security and control over contributions.
I received a request from a charity to solicit my neighborhood on their behalf. What should I consider when deciding whether to participate?
More charities are adopting this type of fundraising practice, because they recognize that an in-person appeal from someone you know may be more successful than a letter or telephone call from a stranger. However, accepting this assignment also entails responsibilities. For example, your neighbors and friends may assume that you have taken time to check out the organization.
· Have you reviewed the charity's program service activities, finances, governance, and whether or not the organization meets all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability?
· Have you verified that the charity is registered to solicit in your state by contacting the appropriate government agency (usually the attorney general's office in your state)?
For security and record keeping purposes, it is best not to collect cash. Ask for a check made out to the full, official name of the organization, and remember to promptly mail the collected donations to the organization. Be aware that neighbors who are unfamiliar with you may be reluctant to provide you with a check that includes their checking account number and perhaps other personal information and may prefer to mail the contribution directly to the charity.
Charities often ask…
We received a request from BBB to complete the Application for Accreditation. Why have we received such a request?
There are two main instances in which BBB requests a charity complete its Application for Accreditation. First, in the majority of instances, donors have come to BBB seeking to learn more about your charity before making a donation decision. Second, in a few instances, your charity may have been the subject of a recent complaint filed with BBB. In either instance, your charity is being given the opportunity to demonstrate that it will use donor contributions wisely.
What assistance does BBB provide for completing the Application for Accreditation and meeting all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability?
The generous support of BBB Accredited Businesses allows us to offer a variety of assistance to your organization FREE of charge.
· Phone Consultations: Take advantage of our expert advice by calling 513.421.3015.
· On-Site Assistance: We’ll personally visit you on-site to assess your materials, develop an action plan, and offer our expert advice.
· Group Presentations: Gather your Board of Directors, employees, key donors, and/or volunteers for a formal presentation on how your organization can incorporate ethics at every level.
What happens if I am unable to complete the Application for Accreditation?
From the time you receive our first request, we’ll wait five weeks to receive your completed Application before issuing a BBB Wise Giving Report. We understand that in some instances, it is just too busy a time for your organization to complete the Application. If so, we ask that you contact us as soon as possible to discuss a reasonable extension.
If we haven’t heard from you in five weeks, or if you will be unable to complete the Application for a substantial period of time, we will issue a “Did Not Disclose” report, letting donors know about your decision.