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Consumer Alert

Research can ease valid fears about donation to charity

Q. When writing a check to a charitable institution, does marking the back of a check “for deposit only” ensure that my donation will be honored by the charitable institution? I am a very small donor on a fixed income, and I would like to feel my hard-earned donated money goes to the charity I select — not to a solicitor or get pocketed by an individual.

A. Writing “for deposit only” does have a purpose, but it won’t give you the peace of mind that you’re seeking. It only ensures that the check is deposited rather than cashed. It would have no bearing on how the money is spent.

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Your concern about your money going to for-profit fund-raisers rather than the charity itself is well founded. Consumers often get peppered with requests for donations, and many of those, including a large number of telephone solicitations, are from companies that make money when you give.

Professional fund-raisers reported keeping an average of 66 cents of every dollar raised in the name of charity in Massachusetts in 2012, according to the attorney general’s Office. In the most extreme circumstances, a solicitor can take more than 90 cents of every dollar given. Clearly, that’s what you’re trying to avoid. And if you are dealing with someone who you worry will pocket your money, then you’re dealing with the wrong people.

The best way to steer clear of these concerns is to cut out the middleman. Do not donate to a charity from a solicitation. Just give your money directly to the charity you want to support.

To further ensure your money will be well spent, you can find several organizations online that review how charities use money that’s given to them. The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (Give.org), Charitynavigator.org, and Guidestar.org are among the groups that evaluate charities and how they spend what’s given to them.

So, if you pick a charity you feel comfortable with and send the check written out to the organization (not to “cash” or a solicitor), you can certainly write “for deposit only” on the check, but it shouldn’t be necessary.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and can be reached at consumernews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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