Utahns receive requests for donations to charitable non-profit organizations on an almost-daily basis.
The requests come in every conceivable form, from a mail solicitation to a knock on the door, a slotted box at the checkout counter of the local grocery store or benefit events like exhibits, concerts, and dinners.With so many groups seeking funds - and many of them represent very worthwhile causes - a prospective donor faces some tough decisions on how to spend money for charity.
The state's Consumer Protection Agency can provide information on whether or not a charity is registered to solicit in Utah (by law, every charity is supposed to be). But the CPA's files are confidential, so while you can complain about a charitable organization to them, you can't get information about other complaints they may have received. The Consumer Protection Agency's phone number is 530-6601.
The Better Business Bureau (the Salt Lake number is 487-4656) does keep track of consumer complaints about charitable organizations and will provide information to those who request it. The BBB also publishes a Guide to Wise Giving every month or so. The listings are of national organizations, though, so it may not be too helpful concerning local groups without a national affiliation. Those groups, however, are the easiest to check on locally. And the bureau investigates every complaint it receives and makes the information available. Besides telephone queries, it will respond to written ones. The address is 1588 S. Main, Salt Lake City 84115.
Of special concern this spring are a growing number of "look-alike" charities. They seem to adopt names that can easily be confused with more firmly established, longer-lived organizations and apparently time their fund-raising activities to take advantage of the goodwill and publicity of the other organization. For example, a group might call itself the American Knee Association rather than the American Knee Fund. (Obviously, both of these names are fictitious.)
The use of a similar name doesn't mean that an organization is not worthy, but it might be wise to approach giving cautiously. And donors also need to be aware that many possibly worthy look-alikes do not operate locally (except to solicit funds), while the more established group may keep a percentage of the money raised in the community to fund local programs. If putting your money to work in your community is important to you, make certain you ask about where the money goes.
With an ever-growing number of charities, it becomes increasingly important to put money to work in the most effective way possible. Ask questions and, if you need time to think about it, don't let anyone rush you into giving.