“Tennesseans are very generous people who want to help when disasters like this occur,” Hargett said.
“Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who will try to take advantage of that generosity. Before making charitable contributions, would-be donors should try to learn as much as they can about individuals and organizations who claim to be raising money for relief efforts.”
Hargett recommends people follow a few basic tips when giving, such as:
- Ask a lot of questions. Reputable charitable organizations should not have problems providing their mailing addresses, telephone numbers, website addresses or other information. Nor should they mind giving details about how the money they raise will be spent. And they should also be able to say what portion of the money they raise actually goes toward the delivery of programs and services and what portion goes toward administrative costs and other expenses.
- Avoid pressure to make donations “on the spot” or over the telephone. Reputable charities should not object if prospective donors ask for time to think over their decisions before giving money.
- Do some research. Unless a charity is well known to you, it helps to do some basic checking about the charity’s mission and the programs and services it offers. Except for exempted groups, most charitable organizations raising money in Tennessee are required to register with the Office of the Secretary of State’s Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming.
This includes charities with bases of operations or home offices located outside of Tennessee. The division’s website — www.state.tn.us/sos/charity— has financial statements from the groups that are properly registered with the state — and also information about which types of groups are not required to register.
- Donate by check. To reduce the likelihood of fraud, paying by check is preferable to making cash payments. Checks should be made out to the organization receiving the donation, not the person soliciting funds. Credit card payments should only be made to highly trusted organizations.
- Report suspicious activity. The Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming is authorized to investigate and impose civil penalties against individuals or groups that engage in false, misleading or fraudulent fundraising activities. Suspicious activity may be reported to the division at 615-741-2555.