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BBB: Get all facts before making that charitable donation

Southeast Texans have a generous giving spirit and are faced regularly with big decisions about contributing to various local, national and international charitable organizations.

"In order to ensure that these dollars are put to proper use, contributors should plan their giving, ask for detailed information about the organizations soliciting their support, and get all the facts before they make a giving decision," said Michael Clayton, President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau.

The Better Business Bureau advises individuals and businesses of some basic tips to consider when making charitable donations:

Just because an organization is a non-profit does not mean that it is a charitable organization and thus your donation is tax deductible.

The non-profit must be recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization to be eligible for a tax deduction. Do not give cash; always make contributions by check and made payable to the charity, not to the individual collecting the donation. Keep records of your contribution so you can document your charitable giving at tax time. Receipts from the organization are necessary for gifts over $250. Although the value of your time as a volunteer is not deductible, out-of-pocket expenses (including transportation costs) directly related to volunteer service to a charity are deductible.

Don't be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization. Investigate the organization with the Better Business Bureau, and remember that charities in Texas are not strictly regulated. The BBB of Southeast Texas reports on charities soliciting in its 8-counties service region, as well as other national charitable organizations. "The next time you receive an appeal, and before you make your decision as to your participation, contact the BBB for a report on the organization," said Clayton.

They are available 24 hours a day by calling 835- 5348.

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