Who Really Gets Your Money?

In the aftermath of september 11, americans donated $1.3 billion to charities. But it's still unclear who will benefitfrom your cash. How can you protect your donationthe next time you decide to give?

an assistant office manager for Deutsche Bank, located at 130 Liberty Street, a building with connecting walkways to the doomed World Trade Center.

Peters was fortunate to escape physical harm during the attack on New York’s financial district, but, for weeks after, she experienced nightmares. She lived a real-life nightmare, too — she lost her job. “Deutsche Bank just could not facilitate all of its 4,000 employees after losing its offices downtown, and I was contracted to them through an agency,” Peters explains. “It was easier for them to let me go.”

Peters felt so blessed to have survived the ordeal, she never thought to ask for financial support until her employment agency insisted she apply for unemployment. It was a friend who encouraged her to apply for relief aid.

“I felt guilty applying for aid,” says Peters, who eventually qualified for and received roughly $2,000 for living expenses, such as food, mortgage, and utilities, from the Red Cross and Safe Horizon.

Many have not been as successful as Peters, so consumers must be prepared to confront the charities and relief organizations they contribute to and make them mind their missions.

When office mates passed the hat for the September 11th Fund, Lillie Downs gave $1,000 immediately. A visual information specialist for the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, Downs was running late on that infamous Tuesday. While in her car, on the way to work, she listened to the Tom Joyner Morning Show report on events at the World Trade Center whe
n an unusually low-flying airliner roared directly above her.

“By the time I got to the gate [at work], I was told that a plane had struck the Pentagon,” recalls Downs. “A chill ran through me because I knew it was the same plane that flew over my head.” Seven of her colleagues were lost in the attack and five others hurt. “I gave right away — with no hesitation — to two separate organizations,” says Downs.

While emotional reasons moved Downs to give right away, consumers should use the following checklist to make sure charities are using their donations responsibly:

Know to whom you are giving. A cause may have several organizations soliciting on its behalf, notes Pat Read, vice president of public affairs for Independent Sector, a coalition of national volunteer and philanthropic organizations. Make sure you’re donating to the organization of your choice. Request written information from the charity. This should include: the organization’s mission statement, board of directors, supporters and beneficiaries, as well as the latest annual report and audited financial statements if possible. You can research many organizations at www.networkforgood.org, where donations can also be made online.

Avoid cash contributions. Never give cash and avoid giving your credit card number or other financial information over the telephone. Make your check payable to the charity, not the person taking up the collection.

Specify who should benefit. Write on your check where you want your donation to go. “If you don’t,” stresses Read, “it goes into a general fund, and you’re saying

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