(Courtesy Utah Nonprofits Association)
RESPONDING TO JAPAN’S EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI: PREVENT FRAUDULENT NONPROFITS FROM STEALING YOUR CHARITABLE GIFTS
Salt Lake City, March 14, 2011 – In the wake of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, many legitimate nonprofit organizations are mobilizing their response teams and will need your financial support to help victims.
But donors must be careful when selecting a charity to support. Some charities are outright scams. Others siphon off most of the money they receive towards administrative costs rather than reaching those in need. Still others are legitimate but ineffective and poorly run. Donors need to do their homework before handing over their hard-earned cash to the wrong people. Beware of thieves who will try to take advantage of this opportunity to defraud you and prevent funds from reaching those who need them most.
“Don’t let the scams deter you from making a donation. Be smart and do your homework. Legitimate nonprofits will be helping the people of Japan recover from this tremendous tragedy,” says Phyllis Hockett, Chair of the Board of Utah Nonprofits Association. “Before you give to a mail, phone, email, facebook or twitter appeal for funds, follow the recommendations from the Utah Nonprofits Association.”
Ideally, a charity should be a not for profit organization registered with the state, and have an Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) status. If it does not, donors cannot claim a charitable donation on their taxes. International charities typically have some affiliation in the United States and are registered with the IRS.
Further, the charity should have a clear mission statement and should use the majority of the money it receives from donations to support its programs – for example, to help the people in Japan. Be careful of excessive salaries and overhead expenses. Donors should be able to request and receive written material about how the charity uses its funds.
When researching a charity, be very sure you are using the correct name. Some scams use names that are very similar to the actual organization name, such as “Kids Wish USA”, rather than the legitimate “Make A Wish Foundation”.
Give donations to organizations you know and organizations you know you can trust. How do you know if you can trust them?
· Check to find out if the organization is properly incorporated and registered to raise money in Utah. Go to: http://www.consumerprotection.utah.gov/registrations/charities.html Click on LISTS of Registered Charities Search. This is the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, Department of Commerce.
· If the group does not have a record, it may not a legitimate organization. Report the group to state officials. It is illegal to solicit money from the public without a state-issued solicitation license.
· You can also look for a state-issued charitable solicitation licenses from other states at http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/State_and_Territories.shtml.
· Check GuideStar.org to see the organization’s financial filings. You have to register, but it's free. http://www2.guidestar.org/Home.aspx
· List of relief agencies involved in rescue and recovery efforts
· Tips for giving to disaster relief and recovery: ow.ly/4dUIq
· Useful information is also located on give.org and CharityNavigator.org.
· On the organization’s website look for the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards seal on the site. While not legally required, it also establishes that the charity is legitimate.
· If you do suspect fraud, follow the FBI’s guidelines:
o Don't respond to e-mails from an unknown source soliciting Japan donations.
o Don't open email attachments related to Japan. They might actually be an attempt to get your personal information.
o Report suspicious email and sites to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. The Web site is: www.ic3.gov.
The Utah Nonprofits Association is the membership association of nonprofit organizations in Utah. Incorporated in 1990, UNA was created by, and for, people who strive for a stronger, more professional nonprofit community in Utah. The organization focuses on providing mutual support, management development through training opportunities and sector-wide advocacy. UNA is the only statewide membership association that reflects the full diversity of the nonprofit sector in Utah. UNA is Utah's official statewide affiliate of the National Council of Nonprofits.
The current membership includes over 630 nonprofit organizations and individual members. UNA's members represent organizations of all sizes and mission areas, including arts and culture organizations, historical societies, homeless and battered women's shelters, agencies that provide services to children and families, community development organizations, environmental groups, museums, food banks, and many other types of nonprofits.
UNA's mission is to strengthen the Utah nonprofit community. We hope to achieve our mission through our four goals:
- strengthen the quality of nonprofit leadership and management
- enhance the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations
- promote greater understanding of the role and impact of nonprofit organizations
- encourage networking and cooperative efforts among nonprofit organizations