With the busiest holiday season of the year upon us, we will begin to see an uptick in the number of solicitations for charitable contributions.
There are many worthy causes, for sure, but use caution when trying to decide which ones to support.
In addition to locally-based non-profits, there always are many others that could use a helping hand to fund their programs.
The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office encourages residents to visit their website, where a wealth of information about charities is available. Just go to http://www.sos.ms.gov/Charities and you can search individual charities by name to find out, for instance, what percentage of their revenue goes to administrative expenses, or overhead, as opposed to actually reaching those whom the entity purports to serve.
The secretary of state’s Charities Division, according to their website, oversees “registration and regulation of all charitable organizations and fundraisers who solicit contributions in Mississippi. The division is also responsible for the investigation of charity complaints and/or violations to the state’s charitable laws.”
The Charities Division is a good place to start if you have a question about a particular nonprofit organization. If you don’t have internet access, call the state office at 601-359-1599.
Another exhaustive resource is available at the Better Business Bureau-sponsored website, www.give.org, which features a national charity report list, reviews of specific charities and more.
At both the secretary of state and Better Business Bureau websites, one may file a complaint against a charity with which they have had a bad experience.
A few other resources to consider are:
• American Institute of Philanthropy, an independent charity watchdog, at www.charitywatch.org
• Charity Navigator, at www.charitynavigator.org
• GuideStar, at www2.guidestar.org
• Internal Revenue Service, where you can look up tax information for charities and other nonprofits, at www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits
• Mississippi Center for Nonprofits, at www.msnonprofits.org
Report after report lists Mississippi residents as some of the most caring and generous people in all of the United States. That is a wonderful attribute. But remember, the con artists will use our own good nature against us if we are not careful, and there are those evildoers who would be more than willing to take the shirt right off your back under false pretenses.
Give generously, but do so carefully and wisely. Use common sense, and if you are uncertain about a particular cause, do your homework.