Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Choosing a charity: Tools for supporting veterans or active military safely

Part of the Russell Kansas Veteran's Memorial - designed by Mallory Goeke

Friday is Veteran’s Day and citizens across the country honor military and veterans at ceremonies, luncheons and parades. Some even use this time of year to send care packages to members of our military. Those who partake in this activity may have a couple of questions: How can you spot the fake charities from the real ones? And what do you send to our military serving overseas.

In this two-part blog series, we will address both of those questions. Today, we start with keeping yourself (and your wallet) safe while you choose a legitimate charity to support. According to, there are steps to figure out how real a charity is:

Do your research: Many veterans and military charities do a great job at providing encouragement and care to our nation’s heroes. At the same time, there are some organizations that take advantage of supporters and scam them into giving money away.

Check state and federal charity lists:  If a charity is the real deal, they should be registered with the government. Simply using a search engine with the “Your State + Charity List” should help.  You can find Kansas’ charity list here:

Charities should be listed as 501 (c ) (3) non-profit organization. There are requirements that a charity has to meet in order to be listed with the IRS.

How much is actually used for what the charity is advertising? Real charities should be transparent. They understand the value of your dollar and are upfront and honest when it comes to what their charity actually does and how your money will used. There are also third-party websites that monitor, score and compare how they spend their money versus how the money is used to fund the charity.  Listed below are a couple of charity-watch websites:

Beware of unsolicited and overeager requests: Charities always ask for help in some way. That is to be expected. However, if the organization is trying too hard to pitch its purpose there could be a reason for that. Don’t commit to giving money over the phone, and if you are being solicited in person, it is OK to take time to research the charity before you send them your money. Ask the solicitor if they have a flyer or business card. The charity will still be thankful to your contribution a day later.

Never send cash or give out your Social Security number, birthday or other sensitive information. Bottom line: Protect yourself. Cash can’t be traced back and it can be easily lost. Giving out too much information could be used to steal your identity.

Now that you have the tools to protect yourself from scams, come back tomorrow for a list of items that our military serving overseas need.  

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