Q:

How can you be sure a charity is legitimate?

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Quick Answer

Ensure that a charity is legitimate by checking its status on charity-verification websites such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. These sites verify the legitimacy of charitable organizations using specific and rigorous qualifications.

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Full Answer

Charity Navigator claims to be the country’s largest charity-evaluation service, and the site offers a substantial amount of information and analyses on most existing charities. Browsing through listings on individual charities, users can examine details on funding sources, financial health, spending, oversight and more. Charity Navigator combines all of these ratings into an overall numerical score for each charity, allowing users an easy way to determine an organization’s reputability.

Guidestar is another major charity-evaluation service that claims to be the world’s largest source of information on nonprofits. Like Charity Navigator, the site offers information on nearly all existing charities, though its basic listings contain less information on organizations and feature no overall rating system. Users who sign up for free membership to the site gain access to organizations’ IRS documents and other in-depth financial information.

The Better Business Bureau operates its own charity evaluation service, known as the Wise Giving Alliance. The site evaluates charities using 20 parameters, including governance and oversight, effectiveness, finances and fundraising. Charities that provide additional information to the site are designated with an official stamp, letting users know which organizations stand up to scrutiny.

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