BBB: Check out charities before donating

One of the lesser-known designated days during the Thanksgiving season is ?Giving Tuesday,? a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season.

This year, Dec. 2 was the day for giving thanks?and giving back. The Better Business Bureau enthusiastically supports ?Giving Tuesday??but with the stipulation that donors and volunteers make sure the charities they support are well-managed and make good use of their donations.

For many Americans, giving to charities during the holidays is almost as important as celebrating with family. As a result, mailboxes are stuffed with charitable solicitations during this time of year. Whether you celebrate or not, giving before Jan. 1 means that your gifts will be deductible on your 2014 tax return.

BBB offers tips to help donors find deserving charities and to make giving more effective as well as deductible. Charity Reviews on local charities can be found at bbbinc.org, and 11,000 charities nationwide at bbb.org, including many national charities accredited with BBB?s Wise Giving Alliance at give.org.

?BBB sees ?Giving Tuesday? as an opportunity for legitimate charities to solicit donations, but also warns donors that some charitable solicitations may come from organizations that spend little on programs,? said Jim Hegarty, BBB president and CEO.

?In addition, scammers may attempt to use the publicity surrounding the day to find susceptible victims. Donors want to know that their money is being spent wisely. If they see a ?clickable? BBB Accredited Charity seal on a charity?s website or other literature, this means the charity complies with BBB?s 20 Stan?dards of Charity Account?ability.?

Charities located in BBB?s service area?Nebraska, South Dakota, the Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa?can begin the process of having BBB evaluate their organization for accreditation. There is no charge for this evaluation and participation is voluntary.

Giving tips

Meanwhile, BBB offers these tips to help individuals know their donation will be used wisely:

? If you are unfamiliar with an organization, don?t hesitate to ask the charity for written information about its programs and finances.

? Don?t succumb to pressure to give money on the spot. A charity that can use your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow. Watch out for appeals that bring tears to your eyes, but tell you nothing about how your donation will be used.

? Before making online donations, determine whether the charity?s website is secure and that it has a privacy policy concerning the use of your name, email address or other personal facts. (Secure sites addresses begin with https://.)

? When considering support for a cause-related marketing campaign, find the answers to these questions: What portion of the purchase price will benefit the charity? What is the duration of the campaign? What is the maximum or minimum total contribution? If the information is not on the item, check the organization?s website.

? Before donating used items, make sure they are in good shape to reuse. Donating junk puts an undue burden on the charity and could do more harm than good. You may want to consider selling the item and donating the proceeds to a charity.

The BBB urges donors to seek professional advice if they are in doubt about the deductibility of contributions. Other helpful tips for making donations are posted on bbb.org. The IRS website at irs.gov has information on the deductibility of donations on tax returns.