The holidays are almost here, and along with them comes a spirit of generosity and charitable giving. Even if you have favorite charities or causes you donate to, how do you know your donation is being put to the best use? The Department of State's Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations is here to help with some handy tips so you can feel confident when you give.

Below are some things you should do before giving:

  • Ask who will benefit from your donation.
  • Find out if your donation is tax-deductible.
  • If solicited in person, always ask to see the solicitor’s identification.
  • Consider requesting written information from the charity about its programs and finances.
  • Hang up the telephone on aggressive and harassing solicitors.
  • Be wary of “guaranteed” sweepstake winnings in exchange for a contribution. Participation in sweepstakes offers is voluntary, and donors are in no better position to win sweepstakes than non-donors.
  • Beware of statements such as “every penny will go to charity.” All charities have expenses. Check carefully and know where your money will go.
  • Find out if the charity is registered with the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations by searching the online database at or by calling, toll-free, 1-800-732-0999.

Below are some things you should avoid doing:

  • Never give to a charity you know nothing about.
  • Don’t feel pressured into giving on the spot or allowing someone to come to your home to pick up the donation.
  • Never commit to give over the telephone unless you are familiar with the organization.
  • Never give cash, credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Always write a check payable to the charity so you will have a record of your donation.
  • Don’t be fooled by a name that sounds like a well-known charity but isn’t the same organization.
  • Don’t make assumptions when you hear words such as “police” or “firefighter” in an organization’s name. Although an organization may claim it has local ties or works with local first responders, that doesn’t mean contributions to it will be used locally.
  • Don’t feel guilty about not supporting every charity that asks you for a contribution.