Graphic The Boston Globe

Making your money count

The office of Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly and specialists in philanthropy offered this advice for making donations to help victims of the Asian tsunami:

  • Never give to a charity you are not familiar with.

  • Take your time when deciding where to make your contribution; resist the temptation to give to the first charity you become aware of.

  • Be wary of appeals long on emotion, a favorite ploy of telephone solicitors.

  • Give to the charity directly rather than through an intermediary.

  • Do not be afraid to ask questions: Where will the money be used? How much will go directly to helping victims of the disaster, and how much will go to the charity's overhead costs?

  • Pay with a check made out to the charity; do not pay in cash; never give your credit card number to a fund-raiser who calls you over the telephone.

  • If contributing over the Internet, be certain that the website belongs to a reputable charity; philanthropic watchdogs report that there have been episodes of scam artists setting up sites that try to mirror those of legitimate charity groups; make sure the website is secured with encryption.

  • Ask whether the contribution is tax-deductible.

    Websites run by charity watchdogs can help in evaluating whether a charity is worthy of your donation; in many cases, the sites have done extensive evaluations of charities:

    www.charitywatch.org, run by the American Institute of Philanthropy

    www.give.org, run by the Better Business Bureau

    www.guidestar.org, run by Philanthropic Research Inc.