Give Yourself the Gift of Giving

Lynnette Phillips

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The holidays are here marked by greetings of good cheer, merrymaking and all manner of festivities! In the midst of all of the revelry is, of course, gift giving and to many yuletide giving means more than the gifts under the Christmas tree. Along with the sweater for Aunt Sue, the bicycle for Jimmy and the slippers for Grandpa are the gifts to charities and disaster relief organizations.

Unfortunately together with extreme generosity come con artists and opportunists determined to take advantage of your holiday spirit and goodwill by turning your donation into their own personal profit. Ensure your charitable gift reaches the intended recipient by using just a little caution and maybe a bit of research.

  • Seek out known organizations and give directly without responding to solicitations. If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of a charity, check the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts, ca. gov/charities. While registration is no guarantee of legitimacy it is an important indicator. A source for national charities is the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at (800) 575-4483 or

  • Be wary of copy cat names. Did he just say American Cancer Society or Unamerican Answers Society? If you’re talking to someone about making a donation to a charity but didn’t quite catch the organization’s name don’t hesitate to ask for the name to be repeated or even spelled out. After all, if you’re expected to make a contribution shouldn’t you know who will benefit? And while you’re asking questions, find out what the group proposes to do with any excess contributions remaining after the intended purpose is met.

  • Any contribution should be made by check, never by cash, made out directly to the charitable organization and not to an individual solicitor.

  • Don’t give through email solicitations. Clicking on an email link may lead you to a site set up by identity thieves. If you are contacted by what seems to be a reputable organization, contact their official Web site directly or give by phone (the call being initiated by you) or via regular mail.

    Americans give roughly $250 billion to charity annually, with Californians counted among the most generous, not only showing compassion and support for their neighbors but also rushing to the aid of others throughout the nation and the world. The holiday season marks one of the most bountiful times of year for these neighbors, charities and relief organizations. Don’t let your goodwill be affected those few seeking to line their own pockets—just season your caring and giving with a little prudence.

    © 2005 by Lynnette A. Phillips

    Lynnette Phillips is a professional notary public and Certified Notary Signing Agent in CA.

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