May 21, 2013
Attorney General Kane: Give WISELY to help the victims of the Oklahoma storms
HARRISBURG - In the wake of yesterday's devastation in Oklahoma, Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today urged all Pennsylvanians to be cautious and prudent with their charitable giving.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those who were killed or lost their homes in these terrible storms," said Kane. "Pennsylvanians are generous and they will surely want to help the victims."
"As with all charitable giving, it should be done carefully and wisely," said Kane. "You want to be certain your charitable donation gets to the people who need it most."
Kane says you should keep these tips in mind when you are deciding whether to give a donation in the wake of a natural disaster:
1. Give Carefully and Thoughtfully
Check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing valuable assistance. Avoid giving on impulse.
2. Check State Government Registration
Many states require charities to register with a state government agency before they solicit for charitable gifts. Pennsylvania is no exception. Check registration at http://www.charities.pa.gov/ or call 1-800-732-0999 for charities lawfully registered to ask for your donation. If you are a Pennsylvania resident and you are solicited here, then the group should be registered here. If the charity is not registered, don't hesitate to report the solicitation to my office through our web site at www.attorneygeneral.gov or by calling us toll-free at 1-800-441-2555. If you are looking for Oklahoma charities, check the Oklahoma registration at https://www.sos.ok.gov/charity/ or call (405) 521-3912.
3. Find Out How Donations Will Be Used
Avoid vague appeals that don't identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims' families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.
4. Be Wary of Online Appeals
Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information, or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don't assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
5. Look for Transparency
If you give a donation after a tragedy, you should follow up and see for yourself how the funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites. You should not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.
6. Look for Established Organizations
This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.
7. Consider Tax Deductibility
Not all organizations collecting funds to assist in a tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these other entities, but they should keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.
The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General acknowledges and thanks The Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau for their help in compiling this list.