As the spirit of the holidays takes hold of everyone, more people find themselves willing to donate to their favorite causes throughout the month of December than any other time of the year. While this is great news for organizations that rely on the funds to keep going, it can spell disaster for those who don’t do their research. Giving back to your community is important, and while you shouldn’t be hampered in your generosity by less-than-scrupulous individuals, you should take steps to protect yourself and your money.
Tips for Donating Safely During the Holidays
Type carefully and double check your spelling. Before you hand over a single dollar, make sure you know the cause that you’re donating to, and make sure you’re actually donating to them. You may think that hitting the “donate” button on the website of a well-known organization is completely safe, but if you mistype the web URL, you could be putting your financial information in danger. Thieves often register domain names slightly off from the spelling of a big organization and take advantage of those who mistype the URL. The website may look exactly like the legitimate one. Take extra care when you navigate to a website, and double-check the spelling of the URL.
Research the cause. New causes pop up every day, and most of them are for legitimate reasons. During the holiday season, more people need help and are willing to ask for it. Just make sure you do a little research to make sure the cause is real and not an attempt to scam money or financial information. Better yet, donate through a trusted site that has already done all the research for you.
Pay with a credit card. If possible, use your credit card to fund your donation. This way, if something goes wrong, you can dispute it more easily. Don’t provide your bank account information to anyone or pay with a check over the phone. Using your credit card also helps you keep track of your donations more easily. It’s also a good idea to hang on to your receipts, even if you don’t plan to deduct your donations come tax season.
Give the gift of time. If you don’t feel comfortable donating money or just don’t have the extra funds, consider giving the gift of time by volunteering for your favorite cause. Local causes often need extra hands to help organize donations, reach out to others, or even get the bookkeeping in order. Even just an hour of your time can help. You may have special skills that your favorite cause desperately needs. Give them a call and see what you can do.
Don’t let a few bad apples keep you from spreading the joy this holiday season. Helping others not only gives the causes a much-needed boost in finances, it also makes you feel better about yourself. Spread the holiday joy as much as possible; just make sure you do it carefully.