Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Buyer Beware When Donating to a Charity

An article in the Bostonist, dated 10/13/09 regarding Blue Hills Riding Center closing spurred me to look into how to decipher a legitimate charity from one that may be in trouble, or in other cases, non existent. Blue Hills from the article ran into financial trouble when it appeared that the owner, an animal lover but not a businesswoman started to collect or hoard horses and refused to adopt our or sell the horses when the money started running out. Charity events put on by this same person were paid for by donations that should have went to the care and feeding of the horses. Its easy to have donations exploited or mismanaged so knowing where your money is going is important. Knowing something about the charity, the administrative team, the allotment of monies, the salaries paid out and to whom etc can be found with some time and investigation.

Here is an article that I discovered giving some key tips on investigating a charity.

It is important for donors to be careful when selecting a charity to support. Some charities are outright scams. Others siphon most of the money they receive towards administrative costs rather than reaching out to the community. Still others are legitimate but ineffective and poorly run. Donors need to do their homework before handing over their hard-earned cash to the wrong people.

Ideally, a charity should be a not for profit with 501(c)(3) status. If it’s not, donors cannot claim their donations on their taxes. (This shouldn't’t scare donors away from international charities—most have some affiliation in the U.S. and are registered with the IRS.)

The charity should have a clear mission statement and should use the majority of the money it receives from donations to support its programs rather than to pay off executive salaries or do more fundraising. Donors should be able to request and receive written material about how the charity uses its funds.

When researching a charity, donors need to be very sure they are researching the correct charity. Scam artists frequently use names similar to those of a well-known charity to trick donors. For instance, one scam artist named his charity “Kids Wish USA.” Many of his victims confused the name with that of the legitimate charity “Make A Wish Foundation.”

People donating to national charities can research a charity on or Charity Navigator also provides information about international charities. offers charities that meet their standards a logo with the phrase “BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards” on it. offers a “Four Star Charity” logo to their highest-rated charities.

Small or local charities are harder to research as they often do not show up on national databases (although does list some local charities). People who wish to donate to charity locally should consider asking for references—who has the charity benefited?

(article reprint from Legitimate Charities website).

The Internet is invaluable in researching a charity, horse rescue or individuals associated with either. A Google search can net articles, photos and additional information regarding a person or group. As always, "buyer beware" is the name of the game when donating your hard earned money.

1 comment:

  1. is an excellent resource to view the 990's of non profits and to see where their monies were spent from the previous filing year.


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