How to Donate Responsibly and Avoid Charity Scams

If you’re looking to donate to a cause you care about, it’s important to be mindful and ensure your hard-earned money goes to a reputable charity. Unfortunately, there are many charity scams out there that take advantage of generous people and their donations.

According to the Fraud Advisory Panel, “Charitable organizations will lose 5% of their revenue each year to fraud.” It proves that not only donors but also reputable charities themselves suffer from the consequences of scammers.

To make certain that your money is put to good use, here are 9 tips to help you donate responsibly and avoid charity scams.

1) Do your research

Doing research will help ensure that your contribution goes to a legitimate organization that will use your money responsibly.

Start by visiting the charity’s website and reading its mission statement. Then, check if they are transparent about how donations are used and how much funds go towards overhead costs.

Use Charity Navigator or GuideStar to check a charity’s rating and financial health. These websites provide detailed information on a charity’s revenue and program expenses so people could make informed decisions concerning where to donate their money.

Don’t just rely on these websites, however. Read news articles, reviews, and testimonials from people who have donated to the organization you want to help. Consider donating elsewhere if there are any red flags, like a lack of transparency or concerns about the organization’s practices.

2) Check if the charity is registered

Registered charities are legally recognized organizations that have met specific requirements and regulations set by the government.

You can often get this information on their website or use a search tool provided by the government or a reputable third-party organization.

By verifying that the charity is registered, you can be more confident that your donation will be used as intended and not diverted for fraud.

3) Be wary of online donation platforms

Donating online through platforms is increasingly common. However, it’s important to exercise caution when utilizing them. Scammers can easily create fake donation pages that seem legitimate, tricking donors into giving away their money to a fraudulent cause.

One way to ensure the legitimacy of an online donation platform is to look for the “https” in the URL, which indicates a secure connection. You should also research the platform online and read reviews from other users. If you have any doubts, donating directly to the charity’s website is always better than through a third-party platform.

4) Be suspicious of unsolicited requests for donations

Scammers often pose as charities, especially after natural disasters or during holidays when people are more likely to help.

If you receive an unsolicited plea for a donation, run thorough research on the organization before giving any money. Do not give in to pressure to contribute. If someone seems suspicious, here’s what you should do:

  1. Ask them leading questions about the organization, such as when it was founded, who is the owner, what they contribute to, and how many people they have already helped.
  2. Ask the person to introduce herself/himself and provide the organization’s official phone number. Then use PhoneHistory to check if the number belongs to this organization.
  3. Ask if the charity is registered. If not, proceed with caution.
  4. Finally, if you’ve decided to proceed, never give away your personal information or bank account details. It’s also a good idea to ask if they accept non-cash donations like clothes and food. If they accept only cash, it’s better to find an organization that you will be sure about.

5) Do not yield to the pressure

Charity scammers often employ high-pressure tactics that aim to guilt-trip you or make you feel obligated to give away money. For example, scammers might call you repeatedly or show up at your door, insisting that you donate immediately. But don’t fall for it. Legitimate charities won’t make you feel uncomfortable or coerce you into helping.

Take your time, ask questions, and don’t let anyone pressure you into giving money. Remember, donating should be a choice, not a requirement. If someone is pressuring you, it’s a big red flag. So stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to say no.

6) Do not give cash

When donating to a charity, avoid giving cash. This makes it difficult to track the donation and can open up the possibility of fraud or theft. Instead, donating via check or credit card is much better, because it can be easily traced and provides a record for tax purposes.

Plus, if you give cash, there’s no way to know if the money goes directly to the intended charity or someone’s pocket. So, be safe and opt for a more secure donation method.

7) Get a receipt

A receipt gives you a record of your donation for tax purposes and also confirms that you have helped the organization.

Ensure that the receipt contains the name of the charity, the amount of your donation, and the date it was received. If they do not provide a receipt, ask for one. It’s your right as a donor.

8) Check how your donation will be used

Before giving money, you should consider how your money will be used. For example, will it go directly to the cause you want to support or be used for administrative expenses?

Many reputable charities will provide this information on their website or fundraising materials. Find out what percentage of your donation will go to the actual cause before you help. If a charity hesitates to provide this information, it is a red flag.

9) Do not give in to emotional appeals

Fake charities sometimes use emotional appeals to convince you to donate to their “cause”. While resisting a moving story or heartwarming picture may be difficult, remember to remain rational.

Emotional appeals can often distract from the details of the charity’s mission and financial practices, leaving you unaware of where your donation is going. It’s okay to be moved by their cause, but be sure to research and confirm their authenticity.


Following these 9 tips can help you ensure that your donations go to legitimate charities and impact the lives of the needy.

Do your due diligence and research before donating, as there are, unfortunately, many scams out there that can take advantage of your generosity. Don’t make quick decisions regarding giving your hard-earned money away. It’s better to wait until you’re sure that the money will go to someone who actually needs it.

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