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'Tis the season for giving safely
Get ready to give your wallet a workout. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, shoppers are gearing up for the holiday giving season. That means many charities will be ringing bells, mailing fliers and dialing your number, hoping for your support. Our Sarah Blazonis has more on the dos and don'ts of donating.
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ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- "This book is called 'Thanks for Thanksgiving,'" a United Way worker told a group of children at the DeWitt Barnes and Noble before reading the story aloud.
It's one of the most treasured parts of childhood: Story time. Saturday, the United Way worked to raise funds to buy books for this year's Christmas Bureau.
"Christmas Bureau distribution is a community event that goes on in Syracuse," said Meghan Moran, the United Way's Success by Six Associate. "We give books and toys and food to underprivileged families for the holiday season."
And as that season draws nearer, so will the sounds of bells and cash registers and phones ringing. Behind it all is the question: Will you part with some of your hard-earned cash to support a good cause? But there are steps you should take before making that charitable donation, especially if you're dealing with an organization you're unfamiliar with. Financial specialists say many of the tips for smart donating are common sense.
"If you get a phone call, you might give out your personal information, your social security number, your credit card account number to people. S, giving out personal information is a mistake," said Linda Rudnick-Smith, a financial specialist with Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions.
The State Attorney General's Office recommends asking questions if you get such a call, like: "What programs are conducted by the charity?", "How much of your donation will be used for charitable programs?", and "How much is the telemarketer being paid and how much is the charity guaranteed?"
"The better business bureau recommends that at least 65% goes to the actual charity," said Rudnick-Smith. "The other 35 percent might be administrative costs, fundraising costs."
And when in doubt, do your research to weed out the naughty from the nice.
"Check with our web site or give us a call. We are affiliated with many agencies throughout the county, and we have a good grasp of what's going on in terms of fundraising," recommended Moran.
All agree a little effort can go a long way in making sure it's a happy holiday for all.
For more information on how to check out charities you plan to donate to, visit www.charitiesnys.com and www.bbb.org.
And for more on the United Way's book drive, visit www.unitedway-cny.org.