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Published December 06, 2011, 11:30 PM

5 things you should know before giving to a charity

By: Daniel Vasquez, McClatchy Newspapers, INFORUM

’Tis the season for giving, but officials warn consumers to be careful about which charities they select for contributions.

Here are five things you should know before opening your wallet for a good cause:

  1. Before you give cash, make sure your charity is legit. Many states require charities to register.

  2. Find out where your money is going. Ask questions, such as why is the charity collecting contributions? What will it be used for exactly? Ask whether the person on the phone asking for a donation is a professional solicitor and if so, what percentage of your donation will go to the charity and how much will go to the solicitor?

  3. Don’t give into pressure. You may want to help, but don’t spend the rent or mortgage money to do it. The law does not require consumers to honor a pledge, so it is OK to change your mind.

  4. Give a check. It is not a good idea to give any organization cash or provide financial information, such as a credit card numbers, over the phone. And make the check out to the organization, never to a specific person.

  5. Keep a record: Ask for a receipt or copy of any form related to your donation. You will need that receipt if you want to claim a tax deduction, and ask for the charity’s tax-exempt number.