Web sites offer data on charities
I receive many requests for donations in the mail every month from charitable organizations, nonprofits, etc. Is there a way to find out if these different organizations are legitimate? I want to send my hard-earned dollars to an organization that spends the majority of its donations on the people for whom it's designated, not on administrative costs. I vaguely recall a Web site that contained this information.
Answer: Call the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii at 536-6956, or go to its Web site, www.hawaii.bbb.org, and click on "Check out a charity."
You can find information about local charities, get tips on charitable giving and learn what standards the Council of Better Business Bureaus sets for organizations to promote ethical practices.
Meanwhile, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance publishes a quarterly report on hundreds of nonprofit organizations that solicit nationally.
More information about the alliance can be found at www.give.org.
Another online source of information is GuideStar.org -- www.guidestar.org -- which has a national database on thousands of nonprofit organizations, based on their IRS Form 990 filings.
You are required to register and log in to GuideStar. The public search option is free, but there are two subscription options for in-depth information.
If you can't find information on a specific charity, the Wise Giving Alliance says to contact the charity directly and request a copy of its most recent annual report and IRS Form 990.
"The charity should provide this information to you in a timely manner and these materials should give you a general idea of how the organization spends the money it raises," according to the Alliance.
The BBB of Hawaii also has these tips:
» Look carefully at the charity's name. Names similar to well-known organizations can be used to confuse you into giving.
» Make sure the nature of the charity's programs is clearly stated -- e.g., how does a charity raising money for the homeless use the money and where? Ask for information in writing.
» Don't be pressured into making an immediate donation.
» Not all soliciting groups are charities. If you want to take a charitable deduction on your federal income tax, make sure the organization is a federal tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.
» Check that the charity is registered with the state's business registration office.
Christmas card update
Waipahu Intermediate School teacher Merlinda Oania thanks everyone who responded to her plea for Christmas card fronts for use in Christmas alphabet books (Kokua Line, Jan. 8
). She said Monday that she received eight immediate responses, including a phone call from someone in Georgia.
Oania also said she wanted to thank Honolulu resident Ellen Morishita, who continues to help her trim the cards for use in the books.
See the Columnists
section for some past articles.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org