BBB gives advice on how to make sure charities are reputable

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COLUMBIA - The Mid-Missouri Better Business Bureau spoke with KOMU 8 News Wednesday to share advice on how to make sure the charities people give money to during the holidays are using the donations properly. 

Sean Spence, the regional director of the mid-Missouri BBB, said the most important thing is to take a few minutes to research the charity.  Charities that are unfamiliar should be researched.

Spence also said to pay attention to names. 

"One of the most common red flags is charities who have a name that sounds like a common, well-known charity but isn't quite the same," Spence said. "So like the American Heart Society or the Cancer Association of America, things like that."

Spence said another frequent issue is charities that are generally reputable but spend most of the money they raise on administrative staff. 

"So where as you think that your money is going to a specific need, it might be paying the people who are calling you."

A good way to prevent this from happening is to ask where the donation will go. 

"Any reputable charity will give you a breakdown of how the money will be spent. They're going to give X amount to administration, they're are going to give X amount directly to whatever the need is. That's the information you should expect from any charity to which you contribute."

Spence said the tips are not meant to scare people away from donating, just to encourage them to be careful.

The executive director of Heart of Missouri CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) said she agrees with that sentiment.  

"There are many wonderful programs and organizations here in mid-Missouri that are very deserving of support and need local donations to sustain their services," Anna Drake said. "Even if people have had a bad experience in the past, I would encourage them to try again." 

Drake said local donations are the "lifeblood" to organizations such as Heart of Missouri CASA.

Donations to many organizations that work with children qualify for a Champion for Children tax credit. That means, for every dollar given, half is given back in a tax credit. 

People considering donating to a local charity who want to look into it first, can call the Mid-Missouri BBB at (573) 886-8965. The BBB also offers a list on its website of over 200 charities that have met the its 20 standards of charity accountability.