Editorial: Do your research before you give

Published 10:44 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2017

At times of major natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and the heavy rains in Texas, it is natural for people to want to get involved and help in whatever capacity they can. For us in Minnesota, the most logical way to give is financially to organizations that actually have their feet on the ground helping the many people in need.

Before you donate, however, we ask that you do your research about the organization you choose to give your money.

The Federal Trade Commission encourages people to find out as much as you can about the charity you’d like to give to, so you can avoid fraudulent charities that are trying to take advantage of your generosity.

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The commission advises people to avoid any charity or fundraiser that does the following:

• Refuses to provide detailed information about its mission, costs and how the donation will be used.

• Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax-deductible.

• Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.

• Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.

• Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to do your research and think about your donation.

• Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire your money.

We encourage you to give to an established charity such as the United Way, the Salvation Army or the American Red Cross with a proven record of success during natural disasters.

Avoid giving out any personal credit card information over the phone and ask instead for an organization to send you information about its cause in the mail.

Ann Austin, executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County, encouraged people to give directly to the local organizations themselves in Houston or the surrounding area, so you know where your money is going. They will use it where it’s most needed.

If you receive a request that you don’t believe is legitimate, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

The legitimate organizations seeking to help people in Texas will likely be working for several months, if not years, in the aftermath of this effort. Before you jump into giving, make sure you feel comfortable with your decision and have done your homework.