You might do business with members of the military community — or they could be your employees, neighbors, family and friends. On this Veterans Day, you may be considering a donation to a charity that assists veterans, active-duty personnel, or military families. But not all “charities” are legitimate: Some are sham operators whose only purpose is to make money for themselves. Others use paid fundraisers whose fees eat up most of a donation, so very little of it is shared with those in need.
Take these steps to make sure your donations go to a legitimate charity and get to the men and women in uniform who you’d like to help.
1) Recognize that the words “veterans” or “military families” in an organization’s name don’t necessarily mean that veterans or the families of active-duty personnel will benefit from the money you’re donating. The U.S. Department of Defense doesn’t endorse any charity, but recommends the Military Homefront site for information about military relief societies.
2) Donate to charities with a track record and a history — and not to “instant charities” that pop up overnight in connection with military conflicts or news stories. Those “charities” may disappear just as quickly — or they may not have the infrastructure to get donated money or products to the right place.
3) Check your records if you have any doubt about whether you’ve made a pledge or a contribution. Callers may try to trick you by thanking you for a pledge you didn’t make.
4) Research an organization before donating any money. Some phony charities use names, seals, and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations — or they may claim veteran status themselves as a way to gain your trust. Call the organization you know to be legitimate and check it out before handing over any money.
5) Ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and the percentage of your donation that will go to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer — or if you don’t like the answer you get — consider donating to a different organization.
6) Find out if the company you’re talking to is registered. Call the office that regulates charitable organizations and charitable solicitations to see whether the charity or fundraising organization has to be registered in your state. For a list of state offices, visit the National Association of State Charity Officials. You also can check out charities with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance and GuideStar.
Learn more by reading Supporting the Troops: When Charities Solicit Donations on Behalf of Vets and Military Families. Before your business makes a contribution to any group asking for help, visit the FTC’s Avoiding Charity Fraud site and apply the Charity Checklist.