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.