that you want your money to go where you feel it will be needed the most.”
Check for legitimacy. For an objective opinion on a charity, contact the BBB Wise Giving Alliance or your state attorney general’s office. Also, order an initial free copy of the BBB Wise Giving Guide by calling 800-575-4483 or log on to www.give.org. In addition, send $3 to the American Institute of Philanthropy, 4905 Del Ray Ave., Suite 300, Bethesda, MD 20814, for its quarterly publication, Charity Rating and Watchdog Report.
Check the distribution of funds. Find out how the organization divides its donations. Depending on the size of the charity, expect 5% to 50% of donations to go toward administrative costs. “That’s what it takes to run an efficient and responsible charity,” Read explains. Oftentimes, an organization will use corporate donations to cover administrative costs so that public donations can be used for aid, as is the case with combined funds, such as the September 11th Fund.
Get a receipt. After you donate, you should receive information explaining what your donation will be used for, and what portion of your donation is tax deductible.
File complaints. If you’re not satisfied with a charity, file a complaint with the state charity official, which is usually the attorney general or an appointee in the state’s Department of Agriculture. (Years ago, the only nonprofit organizations were in agriculture.) You can also file complaints with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance in Alexandria, Virginia, at 703-276-0100.
THE RIGHT APPROACH
Radio talk show host Tom Joyner and author, commentator, and advocate Tavis Smiley (who each have individual foundations) decided to team up to establish the Tavis Smiley Foundation/BlackAmericaWeb Relief Fund to help African Americans, who they felt would be hardest hit.
“We had never done a relief effort before, and there were many process questions: Who’s going to count the money? How is it going to be distributed? Bank accounts, credit card donations,” Smiley recalls. “But before we got started, we had to decide how we were going to be different from other relief funds? We were going to get the money to the people as quickly as it came in. As soon as the money comes in, we send it out.”
Joyner and Smiley opened up a merchant account with $10,000 each, in personal donations. An outpouring of support from listeners, who sent whatever they could, followed. “I continually stress the point that it’s not about equal giving, it’s about equal sacrifice,” says Smiley. “We didn’t want people to feel that if they couldn’t contribute large amounts of money, their contributions wouldn’t be appreciated. Most of our contributions were about $20 to $50.”
They received donations from corporations and celebrities, as well — one anonymous gift totaled $52,000. The Coca-Cola Foundation, headed by Ingrid Saunders Jones, gave $100,000 in matched donations. The fund raised more than $600,000. “And we were not going to give out cash,” notes Smiley. “We were going to pay needs directly to the providers: tuition, car notes, child care establishments.”
The organization also posted verified