Secretary of State Advises Georgians on Donating to Charitable Organizations
Atlanta – Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp offers
advice to individuals planning to donate to charitable organizations during
times of national crisis. Secretary Kemp serves as Georgia’s charities
Secretary Kemp said, “In light of the recent tragedies in
Boston, Massachusetts and West, Texas, 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 organizations and I ask that donors familiarize
themselves with an organization before giving to ensure legitimacy, so their
gifts may be used properly.”
Secretary Kemp issued the following tips for charitable
- 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
- 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 paid solicitor.
- 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 doesn’t 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
- 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
- Not all organizations
with charitable sounding names are actually charities. Many organizations
adopt names confusingly similar to well-known charities. Be sure you know
exactly who is asking for your contribution.
- 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
- 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 fund-raisers 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 file complaints against a charitable
organization on the Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards Division
website: 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.
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,
and the regulation of securities and professional licenses.