With Christmas approaching, many Mississippians will gladly make gifts to charities. So far this calendar year, charities registered in the state have reported more than $96 billion in revenue. More than $1.17 billion of that came from donations in Mississippi.
The generosity of people in our state is admirable, but those who give should also make sure the recipients are legitimate operators who are making a good-faith effort to help people who need it.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, whose office regulates the more than 3,600 charities that are registered in Mississippi, wisely suggests that people do a little research on charities they are thinking about helping. He recommends the following:
• Avoid pressure tactics from charities. There is no need to donate until you have satisfactory information about the group.
• Beware of scams that intentionally use names resembling those of well-known and respected charities.
• Be cautious about telephone solicitations, and don’t give out any credit card information over the phone.
• Verify the legitimacy of solicitations that come in the mail.
• Get a receipt when you donate. This helps with tax deductions and also provides a record of the gift if any problems arise later.
• Perhaps most important, review a charity’s financial and public information if you’re unfamiliar with it.
The secretary of state’s Report on Charitable Organizations is online at www.sos.ms .gov/charities and contains plenty of information. As a guideline, consumer organizations recommend that charities spend at least 65 percent of their money on activities directly related to the charity’s purpose.
Charities that do not meet that guideline, or that raise other red flags on Hosemann’s list, may not be worthy of a gift. It would be almost sinful at Christmastime to make donations that will be used improperly. But it’s up to donors to check out the records of charities.