CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – The images and stories coming from the Bahamas and other areas impacted by Hurricane Dorian are enough to pull at your heartstrings and inspire you to open your wallet to donate. But it is important to make sure the charity soliciting your donation is registered and legitimate before you give.
“Unfortunately there are a lot of dishonest organizations that take advantage of our generosity,” said Jenny Twyman, Charities Specialist with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.
With so many fundraisers and donation requests circulating it may seem overwhelming making it difficult to know where to turn if you have it in your heart to give. The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office has an online resource that can help. You can visit the website, type in the name of the charity and see if they are registered. If the charity is registered you can check to see what percentage of the funding is used for programs and what percentage goes toward administrative costs and fundraising.
Twyman has decades of experience working with charities through her role in the Secretary of State’s Office. She said if you get a bad feeling you should not be shy about speaking up.
“If they are uncertain about a charity I’ll tell them to have them send them solicitation material and have them look it over to see if that is where they want their money to go,” she explained, adding that a legitimate charity won’t be offended if a potential donor asks for more information.
She warns people to be aware of words making up a charity’s name that closely resemble a well-known charity but are slightly different.
Some other red flags to look for that may signal that a charity is a bogus include having bills or invoices sent to you even though you never pledged money to the organization. Also beware of evasive, vague or unresponsive answers to specific questions about the charity and how money is used. Be on alert if the charity isn’t willing to give you time to consider your pledge and insist on collecting your donation immediately. Also, look out for emotional appeals and high-pressure tactics to get you to make a quick decision or feel guilty for not contributing.
If you go to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office website to check out a charity click on “business” then on the drop-down menu select “search for charities” then select “continue to search”. If you still have questions or need help navigating through the process you can call 304-558-8000 and ask for the Charities Division.