Secretary Handel Gives Advice on Donating to Charities
Atlanta—Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel today offered advice to individuals planning to donate to charities during the holiday season. Secretary Handel serves as Georgia’s chief charities regulator.
“Donors should thoroughly research a charity before giving to ensure funds or other items are being used for the stated cause, that it is a legitimate charity and that it is in compliance with the Georgia Charitable Solicitations Act,” Secretary Handel said.
In 2009, the Secretary of State’s Office worked proactively and with local officials to investigate charity scams and violations of Georgia’s Charitable Solicitations Act. These include a Dunwoody man who was soliciting funds to supposedly send local children to burn camps that do not exist, and a sitting member of the Atlanta City Council who accepted approximately $300,000 in contributions to a foundation which had neither been registered with the Secretary of State nor qualified as tax-exempt with the IRS.”
Citizens can file a complaint against a charitable organization on the Secretary of State’s Securities and Business Regulation Division website: http://www.sos.ga.gov/securities.
Secretary Handel issued the following tips for charitable giving:
- It is important to research charities before you contribute. The percentage of your contribution that a charity spends on fundraising activities, employee salaries, or expenses which do not directly support the charity’s stated mission varies greatly by organization.
- A number of online resources can help you research charities. The Better Business Bureau (give.org) and GuideStar (guidestar.org) provide detailed information about nonprofit organizations. Also, take time to review the organization’s own website.
- In addition, many charities must register with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. You can research charities at the Secretary of State's website (sos.georgia.gov/securities).
- Be wary of telephone solicitors asking for contributions. If you are solicited by phone, ask that the individual put their request in writing and provide complete information about the charitable program. Also, ask if the person conducting the solicitation is a volunteer or a paid solicitor.
- NEVER give your credit card, debit card or bank account information to a telephone solicitor. Also, be particularly cautious of couriers willing to rush out to your home or business to pick up your contribution.
- If a tax deduction is important to you, make sure the organization has a tax deductible “501(c)” status with the IRS. The IRS website (irs.gov/charities) has a searchable database of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Make sure you get a receipt which shows the amount of your contribution and states that the contribution is tax deductible.
- Many charitable solicitors ask for contributions of clothing, other household items and vehicles. IRS rules concerning valuations and receipts have changed significantly in recent years; be sure you understand them completely (irs.gov/charities/contributors).
- Not all organizations with charitable sounding names are actually charities. Many organizations adopt names confusingly similar to well-known charities. Be sure you know exactly who is asking for your contribution.
- Watch out for organizations that use questionable techniques such as sending unordered merchandise or invoices after you have turned them down for a donation. You are under no obligation to pay for or return items received under these circumstances.
Anyone with more questions can call the Georgia Secretary of State’s Securities and Business Regulation Division, which oversees charities, at (404) 656-3920.
Karen Handel was sworn in as Secretary of State in January 2007. The Secretary of State's office offers important services to our citizens and our business community. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities and professional license holders. The office also oversees the Georgia Archives and the Capitol Museum.