Department of State Provides Timely Tips on Charitable Giving

Dec 07, 2010, 14:34 ET from Pennsylvania Department of State

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 7, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While the holiday season puts many Pennsylvanians in the spirit to give, Secretary of the Commonwealth Basil L. Merenda today reminded consumers to do some research before opening their wallets to support charitable causes.

"There are many worthy charitable causes and residents should feel free to contribute to causes with personal meaning, whether a local homeless shelter, food bank, soup kitchen, animal rescue, or an international organization with global outreach," said Merenda. "However, I urge everyone to take the time to understand where their dollars will be going so they can have confidence that their donation will have the biggest benefit and get to the people who need it most."

Before giving to any charitable organization, research how your money will be used. Most charities are legitimate and strive to ensure the majority of dollars go directly into worthwhile projects, but some may misrepresent their cause or spend a high percentage of donations on administrative costs. Be sure that the charity's spending practices match your expectations.

The Department of State's Bureau of Charitable Organization's website contains tips and warnings for charitable giving, such as:

  • Never give to a charity you know nothing about.
  • Request written information from the charity about its programs and finances.
  • Do not feel pressured into giving on the spot or allow someone to come to your home to pick up the contribution.
  • Never commit to donate over the phone unless you are familiar with the organization.
  • Never give cash, credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Always write a check payable to the charity so you have record of your donations.
  • All charities have expenses, so check carefully and understand how your donation will be spent.
  • Consult with your tax advisor to determine whether your contribution is tax deductible. If giving before Dec. 31, charitable donations may be tax deductible for the upcoming tax filing.

The Bureau of Charitable Organization maintains current registration and financial information for more than 11,000 charities and 400 professional solicitors and fundraising counsels soliciting charitable contributions in Pennsylvania. Visit and select "Charities" for more information.

Through the bureau's online registry, consumers can learn how much charities spend on fundraising and administrative costs and how much is spent on the causes they support. With this information, donors can make better-informed decisions about charitable giving.

Consumers without Internet access can call the Department of State's Bureau of Charitable Organizations toll-free at 1-800-732-0999 to obtain information on charities.

Media contacts: Leslie Amoros or Kevin Murphy, 717-783-1621

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of State