‘Tis the season to start giving, and for many that includes to donate money to charity. With a growing social conscious and so many ways to share our money with people in need, it can sometimes be confusing who to give it to or even who to trust.

Any other Sydney-siders a little over being hassled by spokespeople from charities you’ve never heard of before? Especially when they don’t even just want a one-time donation, oh no, they want your bank account details to sign you up for monthly payments and then use the ‘oh, but you buy coffee don’t you?’ line to guilt you when you explain that you research your charities before committing. Then there are endless crowdfunded campaigns and now even apps that kind of work like UberEats for charities.

In the end, even charities are businesses and they do need to make enough money to run themselves, and this is totally fair. But how do we know that as much money as possible from our donation is going to the cause we’re donating to?

Research Your Charity

You beautiful, caring person who is happy to hand out your money to help others. You are great. But the very reason I literally never donate money to charity when I’m put on the spot? Because I’ve already researched my preferred charities, and while I’m willing to take information and look into new ones, I never take them at face value. That was just my own personal policies, but according to the Australian Charities And Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC), I’m not wrong.

They recommend you check the name and identification, but keep in mind that just because you haven’t heard of it doesn’t mean it’s dodgy, it just means you should find out about them before you donate. Have a look at ACNC’s Charity Register to make sure they’re legit, but dig a little deeper.

ACNC recommends you “visit a charity’s website, read its annual report and find out more about its activities, its mission, and its financial situation.” If you don’t end your research with a very clear idea of their mission, aims and use of money you probably want to find another charity.

What About Crowdfunding?

This way of raising money is becoming more and more popular, often even by actual charities themselves. Every now and then a fundraising effort goes viral, like The Trolly Man effort set up by registered charity the Melbourne Homeless Collective. Again, it’s all about doing your research about the cause and the organisation setting up the crowdfunding, including making sure they’re registered to avoid a scam.

Pay Straight To The Source

This kind of works the way those flight booking websites work. Apps and websites are popping up that show you all the charities in one place and provide a convenient way to donate money to charity. On the one hand, this has a huge value, particularly if you’re time poor, so they shouldn’t be discounted. However, they do take a percentage off the top before your money makes it to the charity.

So if you want as much of your money as possible going towards the cause, donating straight to your chosen charities’ website is your best bet.

Pay Securely

For heaven’s sake do not just randomly give out your bank or card details. For starters, you haven’t researched and you don’t know if it’s a scam. For a follow-up story, years ago a mate of mine did sign up to one of those random side-of-the-road charities. She wanted to give a one-time donation, was told as she was filling out the form that signing up for monthly donations was the only option so she panicked and gave the wrong account details on purpose. Long story short the charity discovered this, SOMEHOW found out her real details and sent her an email to let her know they were charging her extra for giving them the wrong details? If that doesn’t sound dodgy enough to put you off, I don’t know what will.

So then, the best way to know you’re paying only what you think you’re paying, to the charity you think you’re paying it to, is via their own official website or an official third party like a crowdfunding website.

Not All Legit Donations Are Tax Deductible

This alone doesn’t mean your chosen charity isn’t legit, it just means it’s not one of the charities that are endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as what they call a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR).

for you, after you’ve donated like a champ
Image: Seinfield