Donate Wisely - Guidelines for Giving to Japan Relief from the Illinois CPA Society

Mar 16, 2011, 13:40 ET from Illinois CPA Society

CHICAGO, March 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As we continue to watch the repercussions of Japan's disastrous earthquake unfold, there's a natural inclination to do whatever we can to help. To be sure your financial assistance is of maximum benefit to those most in need, and no harm is done to your finances and personal security, the Illinois CPA Society suggests proceeding with a little caution.

Today's hi-tech world allows donations to be made quickly and easily though texting, tweeting, gaming, Facebooking, using mobile phones or working with recognizable giants like Groupon and iTunes. The downside of technology is how easily it can be used against people for personal gain. Scammers are flooding e-mail boxes with messages seeking donations and domains have been established to fool people into thinking they're legitimate donation sites.  

Protect yourself and make sure your donation gets to the right place by using these guidelines from the Society:

  • When in doubt, don't. Don't open unsolicited (SPAM) e-mail, click on links in an unsolicited e-mail, or respond to messages from sources you don't recognize seeking e-mail donations. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Make sure you're giving to a valid charity. Beware of groups using names similar to larger, respected organizations. Use sites such as the American Institute of Philanthropy's to make sure the charity is legitimate.  
  • Ask questions. How will your donation be used? What percentage of the contribution goes directly to relief efforts? Is this an experienced organization?  Get the charity's full name, website, address and phone number. Don't contribute to any charity that won't answer your questions or refuses to provide information.
  • Take steps to protect your identity. Only provide credit card numbers on secure sites online; be careful when sharing credit card numbers or any personal information over the phone. Know who you're speaking with and who may be listening to your call - or who's looking over your shoulder when online in public places.
  • Consider your payment method. Checks and credit cards are better than cash and help charities avoid tracking and security problems. Your statements remind you of your donation. However, don't make checks payable to an individual or allow anyone to make a contribution on your behalf.

As you would with any charitable donation, keep receipts and records.  Check to make sure the right amount appears on your credit card bill, bank statement, or if texting, your phone bill. Keep those items on hand if you plan on taking a tax deduction and be certain that the receiving organization is a qualified charity under IRS Code. Check for more information about charities recognized by the IRS.

When in doubt, check with a CPA for guidance on charitable giving.  Also, use resources like the IRS website, and the Illinois CPA Society website,

About the Illinois CPA Society

The Illinois CPA Society, founded in 1903, is the fourth largest state CPA Society in the nation, with more than 24,000 members. It is the premier professional organization that represents CPAs in Illinois. During its over 100 years of existence, the Society has advanced the highest ethical and financial standards of the profession, and has been a leader in educating the public on financial issues.

SOURCE Illinois CPA Society