Be Smart About Giving

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

If you're thinking about making a donation, here are a few things to consider.

· Don't give to a charity you're unfamiliar with, especially if it solicits you by phone or mail.

· Go to the charity's Web site, if it has one, to get an idea of what the organization does.

· Look up the charity's tax-exempt status. To find the IRS tax filing required of charities, known as 990s, use http://www.guidestar.org/.

· If a group is not registered on http://www.guidestar.org/, ask the charity for a copy of the IRS letter confirming its tax-exempt status. A copy of a letter requesting IRS tax-exempt status is not enough, experts say.

· For larger charities, the Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org/ or through http://charitynavigator.com/ can provide useful information.

· Ask for a copy of the group's annual report, which is often available online. It has information about activities and how the group is governed. Think twice about a group that has significant overlap between staff members and the board.

· Look through local philanthropy catalogues, including http://www.catalogueforphilanthropy.org/dc or http://www.thecommunityfoundation.org/.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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