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4 tips for maximizing the impact of your charitable donations

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Here are some tips for making sure your philanthropic money ends up where you want it to.

1. Avoid high-pressure tactics

Sometimes, charities will market matching gift campaigns that involve a deadline that’s fast approaching.

“It encourages to you to give without giving you time to research whether the charity will use your donation efficiently or not,” said Laurie Styron, executive director of CharityWatch.

“It’s much better to step back and think about the causes you care about … and target those charities, Styron said.

“If it’s high pressure, it’s usually not a good charity,” she said.

2. Vet the charity

You can consult websites such as

, GuideStar and CharityNavigator, which all analyze and rate charities to varying degrees. The Better Business Bureau also offers insights through its Wise Giving Alliance.

Additionally, most nonprofits — excluding churches — are required to file a Form 990 yearly with the IRS. Donors can use a search tool on the IRS website to confirm an organization is tax-exempt and eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

3. Give directly to the nonprofit

Sometimes, individuals are solicited by someone who says they are raising money on behalf of a charity, but are collecting the money themselves.

In those cases, you’d need to know whether the person definitely is going to pass on the money raised to the charity.

“Even if it’s a legitimate middle person or donation processor, they might be taking significant administrative or processing fees out of your donation,” Styron said.

Instead, she said, if that charity’s programs appeal to you, make the donation directly to the charity.

4. Beware of ‘scammy charities’

Sometimes, a person or group will take the name of a highly popular charity name and slightly change it, Styron said.

“A lot of times, scammy charities will leverage a familiar-sounding name to try to scam you out of your money,” she said. For instance, they might add “foundation” at the end of a charity’s name or “American” in front of the name to make it sound like a charity that is broadly trusted.

In other words, it’s yet another reason to make sure you look into a charity before you give.

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