Shopping Insider: What to Know Before Spending for Charity

How to get the best steals and deals for people who take shopping seriously

Know how your cash will be used.

Throughout the year, you’ll likely see products in stores with different ribbons and logos on them, claiming that your purchase will help support some charitable cause.  From breast cancer to wildlife conservation, there’s a T-shirt, mug, or bumper sticker to go along with it. Known as embedded giving or charity shopping, this practice is becoming increasingly popular. Unfortunately, not all of these promotions are legitimate. There’s a possibility you could get scammed. Follow these tips and protect yourself from getting swindled.

  1. Find out where your money is going. If the product’s label says something really vague like “Donations are going to a charitable organization to help children,” beware. The label should be specific. Which organization will benefit from your donation? It’s important to find out the details. For all you know, the product could be a ploy to get your money and pad a greedy executive’s pocket.
  2. Learn how much of your money will be donated. Find out how much of your money is actually going to the charity. If it’s a nominal amount, it might not be worth it to purchase the item.
  3. Do additional research. If you’re not familiar with the charity that’s tied to a product, conduct background research. Check out sites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator. GuideStar allows you to read and write reviews about a charity, verify a nonprofit’s charitable status, and research supporting organizations. The site also allows you to see how charity executives are compensated. Charity Navigator allows you to see charity ratings and review the financial health of a charity. More importantly, you’ll be able to see how donated money is used and how much of it goes directly to the cause it says it represents.
  4. Donate directly to organizations. Buying products that claim to help others might make you feel good about yourself, but it’s pointless if you’re not clear as to how your money is really being utilized. If you’re not sure that your money will get where it’s supposed to go, give your gift directly to the cause it claims to support (provided it’s an organization that you’re knowledgeable about). Furthermore, by giving directly to the organization, you’ll be able to get the tax break for charitable deductions.

Be sure to come back every Friday for more Shopping Insider posts.

Sheiresa Ngo is the consumer affairs editor at Black Enterprise.

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