Secretary of State Advises Georgians on Charitable Donations
ATLANTA (Dec. 3, 2013)
– Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp offers advice to individuals planning
to donate to charitable organizations during the holiday season. As Secretary
of State, Kemp serves as Georgia’s charities regulator.
Secretary Kemp said, “During this
holiday season, let’s make the most of our contributions to individuals and
families in need. Many wish to give back to those affected by tragedies through
charitable donations, and I ask that donors familiarize themselves with an
organization before giving. Charitable donations have the most impact when
given to groups that spend responsibly. Advance research can do a lot to ensure
gifts are being used properly.”
Secretary Kemp issued the following
tips for charitable giving:
- Research charities before you contribute. The
percentage of your contribution that a charity spends on fundraising
activities, employee salaries, or expenses which do not directly support
the charity’s stated mission varies greatly by organization.
- A number of online resources can help you research
charities. The Better Business Bureau (give.org) and GuideStar
(guidestar.org) provide detailed information about nonprofit
organizations. Also, take time to review the organization’s own website.
- Be wary of telephone solicitors asking for contributions.
If you are solicited by phone, ask that the individual put their request
in writing and provide complete information about the charitable program.
Also, ask if the person conducting the solicitation is a volunteer or a
- NEVER give your credit card, debit card, or bank
account information to a telephone solicitor. Also, be particularly
cautious of couriers willing to rush out to your home or business to pick
up your contribution.
- If a tax deduction is important to you, make sure the
organization has a tax deductible status with the Internal Revenue
Service. “Tax exempt,” “non-profit,” and “tax deductible” mean different
things. Just because a solicitor says their organization is non-profit or
tax-exempt, that does not mean you can legally deduct your contribution.
Only “tax deductible” means your contribution is deductible on your income
tax return. Make sure you get a receipt which shows the amount of your
contribution and states that the contribution is tax deductible. The IRS
website (irs.gov/charities) has a searchable database of organizations
eligible to receive tax deductible charitable contributions.
- Many charitable solicitors ask for contributions of
clothing, other household items, and vehicles. IRS rules concerning
valuations and receipts have changed significantly in recent years; be
sure you understand them completely (irs.gov/charities/contributors).
- Not all organizations with charitable sounding names
are actually charities. Many organizations adopt names that are similar to
well-known charities. Be sure you know exactly who is asking for your
- Watch out for organizations that use questionable
techniques such as sending unordered merchandise or invoices after you
have turned them down for a donation. You are under no obligation to pay
for or return items received under these circumstances.
- Most police and fire departments are funded by tax
dollars. However, their unions and social organizations may solicit you
for contributions. These groups typically use paid fundraisers to solicit
donations. If you are solicited by an organization using the words
“police” or “firefighter,” call your local police or fire department to
verify that the group is actually supporting the department and to find
out how much of their contributions actually are used for their programs.
- Be skeptical of organizations which list only post
office boxes, “PMB” addresses, or mail drop suite numbers.
Citizens can research organizations
registered in Georgia by visiting the Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.ga.gov. Complaints can be
filed against charitable organizations on the Secretary of State’s Professional
Licensing Boards Division website at http://www.sos.ga.gov/plb. If you have additional questions, please call the Georgia
Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards Division, which oversees
charitable organizations, at 478-207-2440.
Brian Kemp has been Secretary of
State since January 2010. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the
Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections,
the registration of corporations, the oversight and regulation of securities
and the administration of professional license holders.