Don't feel pressured into giving on the spot or allowing someone to come to your house to pick up the contribution.
Hang up the telephone on aggressive and harassing solicitors.
Request written information about the charity, its mission, programs and finances, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
Check to see that the charity is registered with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office (AGO) Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division at Non-Profits & Charities Document Search. Questions regarding the availability of a report or the status of a public charity should be directed to the AGO Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division via email at email@example.com, or by phone (617) 727-2200 ext. 2101.
Do not reveal your personal or financial information, including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers, to anyone who solicits a contribution from you.
Always write a check payable to the charity, not the individual soliciting you, so that you have a record of your donation.
Be wary of "guaranteed" sweepstake winnings in exchange for a contribution. Participation in sweepstake offers is voluntary, and donors are in no better position to win the sweepstakes than non-donors.
Ask who will benefit from your contribution.
Don't be fooled by a convincing name or one that sounds like the name of a well-known charity.
Don't make assumptions when you hear words like "police" or "firefighter" in an organization's name. Although an organization claims it has local ties or works with local police or firefighters, it doesn't necessarily mean contributions will be used locally.
Don't feel guilty about not supporting all the charities that ask you for a contribution.
If solicited in person, always ask to see the solicitor's identification.
Be aware of statements such as "every penny will go to the charity." All charities have expenses, so check carefully and know where your money goes.
To file a complaint, contact the following:
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 2058
(877) FTC-HELP (382-4357)/TDD: (202) 326-2502
Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts
Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
American Institute of Philanthropy
Charity Navigator lays out how a charity spends its money, how stable it is financially, and how it compares with similar groups.
GuideStar provides a 10-step guide to choosing a charity.