It is the giving season.
It is the season of kindness, generosity and charity.
In addition to giving presents to family and friends, people make more charitable donations this time of year than at any other throughout the year.
There are gift giving opportunities to donate toys for children.
Bell ringers are collecting funds at the entrances of popular shopping locations.
Some give food baskets or volunteer to help provide holiday meals.
Then, there are those basic needs that become even more important during the cold winter months — food, clothing and shelter.
Throughout our community there are numerous organizations, agencies, nonprofits and churches helping to see to the needs of others.
All of these things are good things.
What is disheartening is that there are also numerous scammers, flimflam artists and charity thieves just waiting to take advantage of the generous holiday spirit.
We recently reported the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office has issued a few warnings and suggestions for holiday giving.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp said, “Charitable donations have the most impact when given to groups that spend responsibly. Advance research can do a lot to ensure gifts are being used properly.”
The most important piece of advice given by the secretary of state’s office is simply to research charities before you contribute.
Know who you are giving to.
It is important to know how much of your donation goes to actually help people in need and how much is spent on employee salaries, expenses and the act of fundraising itself.
The state advises that a number of websites are available to assist as you research individual charitable organizations. The Better Business Bureau (www.give.org) and GuideStar (www.guidestar.org) provide detailed information about nonprofit organizations. Also, take time to review the organization’s website.
The state advises the public to be wary of telephone solicitations and anyone who calls you and requests credit card or personal identifying information.
In fact, the secretary of state’s office simply says, “Never give your credit card, debit card or bank account information to a telephone solicitor.”
The IRS website (irs.gov/charities) has a searchable database of organizations eligible to receive tax deductible charitable contributions.
Charities registered in Georgia are listed at www.sos.ga.gov. Complaints can be filed against charitable organizations on the Secretary of State’s Professional Licensing Boards Division website at http://www.sos.ga.gov/plb.
We strongly encourage and support charitable giving not only this time of year, but throughout the year.
We encourage our readers to be generous.
However, we urge utmost caution and wish that it was not necessary to issue such warnings.