Tips to make sure you give with your heart — and your head — this holiday season

‘Tis the season for giving, but when helping your favorite charities, you’re encouraged to do your homework before opening up your wallet.

Kevin Scally, chief relationship officer for Charity Navigator, a company which analyzes charities, said it’s important to give intelligently.

“You want to give with your heart, but you also want to give with your head,” Scally said.

He said the first thing you should do before giving is to make sure the charity is legitimate. Next, make sure the charity is the organization you think it is.

“You might think that you’re looking at a reputable organization. There are a lot of organizations that have very similar names. We call these look alike charities,” he said.

He also said beware of phone calls claiming to be charities, especially when the person at the other end is trying to pressure you to donate.

“That’s typically something to be really wary of. I would say hang up the phone. If you want to do some additional due diligence and research, you’re welcome to do that,” Scally said.

He also recommends you do your homework, by looking into how the charity operates and how it spends its money, things Charity Navigators looks at when rating charities.

“Doing a little bit of research, you might find that organizations really don’t have the best governance practices. There are organizations that don’t have an independent board of directors meaning the folks that are actually governing them, sometimes they’re actually paid employees,” he said. “You want that separation,” Scally added.

He also recommends looking for organizations that have policies in place to protect your data.

When pulling out your wallet, Scally said double-check that you are donating through an official website or trusted source. When donating, especially online, he also recommends using a credit card and not debit card because credit cards provide more protection.

Finally, never give out banking information and if someone is asking you to buy gift cards, don’t do it — that is a common scam technique.

All this said, Scally said he encourages you to donate this year. He said many really need the help with many organizations telling him donations are down 20% to 30%.

“So, let’s try to bolster them as much as we can, especially going into the end of the year,” Scally said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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