Making Charitable Donations

State Of New York
Department of Law
Attorney General

seal of the New York State Attorney General's Office

The Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
28 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10005

In light of the holiday season, a time when many individuals consider making donations to charities, The Attorney General’s office provides the following tips:

  • Find out what the charity will do with the money - ask for information about its programs and ask for a copy of its financial report. Find out how much of your money will be used for charitable programs.

  • Be wary if the organization will not provide information about its program and finances upon request.

  • Ask what portion of your gift actually goes to support the charity's program and what proportion goes to administrative costs.

  • Consult the Attorney General’s annual publication, "Pennies for Charities," which reports the amounts raised by charity telemarketers and the amounts actually received by the charities on whose behalf the telemarketers solicit contributions.

  • Be careful of charities with names that sound impressive or resemble those of other organizations - some organizations use names similar to those of well known organizations in order to confuse donors.

  • Be wary of emotional appeals that talk about problems but do not explain how money raised will be spent or what the programs of the organization are.

  • Read mail solicitation literature carefully to make sure it identifies the charity and tells what will be done with your money. If it does not, call or write for financial information.

  • Be careful of appeals asking you to return something such as a questionnaire or survey. Such devices may be used to divert your attention from the organization’s program and who it will spend your money.

  • Ask for identification if the solicitation is made in person.

  • Ask if donations are tax deductible.

  • Don't fall for high pressure tactics of solicitations made over the phone. Ask for written materials containing information about the charity.

  • If you decide to contribute, do not pay in cash, but instead pay by check.

  • If giving to a law enforcement group, keep in mind that some people take advantage of the public's concern and make fraudulent solicitations in the name of legitimate police groups. When asked to give to a police organization, contact your local police or other law enforcement agency to check on the identity and the legitimacy of the group asking for the contribution. Be wary of a solicitor who uses coercive or abusive tactics or who promises that your contribution will entitle you to better police protection or special privileges.

  • Contact the Attorney General’s office at (800) 771-7755 to report charities fraud or to check on the records of a charity or its fundraiser.