BBB: Give to charities with your head, not your heart

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s that time of the year when many of us are in the giving spirit, but before you open your wallet for a charity, you should make sure you’re not being scammed.

The Better Business Bureau offers up some basic tips for giving wisely.

When choosing a charity, many of us choose with our heart.

“We are all driven to give when we want to help a cause, so many of us want to give to animals, we want to help the homeless, we want to find a cure for cancer. We are driven to what motivates us too, what pulls on our heart,” explained Kathleen Calligan, CEO of the Better Business Bureau.

Calligan told News 2 it is important to make sure you’re using your head when giving.

“Charity is a business, it’s a big business,” she said.

When you buy a house or a car, you do your research. Calligan said that’s the same mentality you should have when donating to a nonprofit.

She said the BBB can help with that research through its Wise-Giving Alliance Program. It has reports on a charity’s effectiveness, how a charity is run, and how much of your donation goes back to the cause itself.

This time of year, it’s more important than ever to be cautious.

“We may hold off all year long and save so we can make that one important donation to kids that otherwise might not have a Christmas, or to the homeless who otherwise might not be celebrating the holidays,” Calligan said.

It’s the reason for the season and scammers know that, especially the telephone solicitors.

“When you answer the phone and they say representative from a charity, ask this question, ‘Are you a paid telephone solicitor for this charity or are you a volunteer?’ You are probably going to hear a pause. Research shows us if it’s a paid solicitor they can receive as much as 98 percent of your donation you are going to give,” Calligan explained.

You should also be cautious of “sound alike” charities. Sound alike charities often have a name similar to a well-known organization.

So before opening your heart and wallet, ask questions, do your homework and make sure you really are helping who you intend to.

“Every dollar counts. How do I make my dollar count? I have to look at where I’m giving to,” said Calligan.

If you would like to check into a charity before you donate, visit the BBB’s Wise-Giving Alliance Program.