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l601) 3-56·0911 i (205) 758·8610

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IIIIIIIIUIII iIIllIlllilll! UIIiI • GuideStar (\.vww 2, rates
Do research before more than 1.8 million IRS-recognized, tax­
exempt organizations. Their basic search
making charitable engine is free:· or you cart t.ntier more cus-­
tomized research fpr a f"". The site also·fea- .
lUres helpful questions to ask and tips for
;) ; '
choosing a charity.
The Better Business Bureau
,'J'.' Bv Jason Alderman (Wv, -rates whether orga:rrizations
Getting th~ most bang for your buck is a have met its standards of accountability,
badge of honor these days, whether you're including ethical conduct and honest solicita­
car shopping, choosing a college or just com­ tion practices.
paring loaves of bread, One area where you Be tax-smart. Although your kids little
realiv don't want to misspend your hard­ league may be a worthy cause~ be aware that
earn~d doliars is charitable donations, only contributions made to organizations
There is no shortage of non-profit organi­ id~ntified in IRS Publication 78 qualify for
zations competing for contributions. but tax deductions. Visit;.govlcharitiesl
quality and effectiveness vnty significantly, l,..'Ontributors for a link to a search engine of
so you should do a little research before qualified charities, as well as infonnation on
donating your time or money. Here are a few how to report and substantiate charitable
suggestions: deductions and other helpful tips.
Pick the right cause, Many peeple prefer Be on fraud alert. Unfortunately, some
to support organizations that champion issues unscrupulous people and organizations will
close to their heart, whether it's feeding the take advantage of your desire to help others ­
hungry, environmental protection or working if you let them. A few tips:
to cure a disease. Also consider whether you • Ask for a copy of the organization's IRS
want to target local organizations or prefer to Fonn 990. which details how contributions
have a more national or global impact. are spent
Familiarize yourself with their operations. • Be su::.pkious of telemarketing and email
Study the organization's website, annual solicitations. When in doubt, bang up and
report and mission statement. SJl<"'k to staff contact the organization yourself.
members or volunteers, or volunteer there • Be aware that scarruners often choos
yourself. Or, if you know someone who has names that arc similar to those of legitimate
used their services, ask for impressions of the organizations.
organization's efficiency and client helpful­ " !\c\er give out personal or credit card
ness, information unless} ou initiate the contact.
Do your homework. III these tough times, ~lore people than ever need our charitable
many non-profits are experiencing increased assistance, Just be snre you're contributing to
demand for their sCf'ices ill the face of organizations thal can do the most good.
declining contributions and government -Jason Alderman directs Visas financial
funding. Avoid charities that spend heavily education programs. Sign up for his free
on salaries, advertising, fund-raising and oth­ monthly e-N'ewsletter at www.practicai­
er administrative expenses (sometimes mis,
reported as «program development," «public
education" or other euphemisms). Ideally, at
least 75 percent of
Do a little should go directly
to beneficinty pro­
research grams.
Several online
before rating services can
help with your
donating • Charity Navi­
gator (·
your time rates
more than 5,400
or money. large charities by
financial strength
and revenue spent
on programs and services. They offer helpful
'Top l()" lists and a well-structured 'Tips and
Resources" section. You can use their guide­
lines to formulate your own inquiries for
smaller organizations not included in their