TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which regulates charitable organizations soliciting in or from the state of the Florida, are providing consumers with tips to donate safely throughout the holiday season.
“Helping Floridians make informed charitable donations that best reach those in need is one of our top priorities as the state’s consumer protection agency,” Commissioner Fried said. “Over the holidays, we encourage individuals to review our list of best practices to avoid scams and sham charities so that your generosity can make the most impact possible this holiday season.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), through its administration of the Florida Solicitation of Contributions Act, helps create a safe environment for individual donors to give confidently in response to needs in their community and to causes they care about. All charities soliciting within the state of Florida (excluding religious, educational, political and governmental agencies) are required to register and file financial information with FDACS. While it is up to the donor to determine if their contribution will be spent the way they intend, FDACS makes it easier for donors to access that information by making registration and financial documentation available online [csapp.fdacs.gov] at FloridaConsumerHelp.com [floridaconsumerhelp.com].
According to FDACS and Commissioner Fried, here are several tips to help consumers give safely:
- Don’t respond to high pressure tactics. A legitimate charity will welcome your donation whenever you choose to make it.
- Check if the organization is properly registered with the state through our Check-a-Charity [csapp.fdacs.gov] tool or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-FL-AYUDA en Español) to find out if a charity is properly registered, how much the charity is spending on administration and fundraising, and how much money goes to programming.
- Search the organization’s name online along with key words like “complaint” and “scam.” Also look for reviews and feedback about the organization. Don’t assume solicitations on social media or crowdfunding campaigns are legitimate — even posts that are shared or liked by your friends.
- Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails, texts, Facebook, or Twitter fundraising messages. They can unleash malware.
- Ask how much of your donation will go to cover administrative costs like overhead and fundraising expenses. Every charitable organization will have operating expenses, but Wise Giving Alliance recommends that at least 65% of a charity’s total expenses should go directly to serving its mission.
- Verify whether your donation is tax-deductible since only certain organizations are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. Ask for the organization’s tax-exempt number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool. Donations to individuals are not tax-deductible. Remember that crowdfunding campaigns are not tax deductible.
- Always obtain and save a printed copy of your donation or a receipt showing the amount of the contribution.
- Pay with a credit card or check to be safe. Do not donate in cash, by gift card, or wire transfer — these forms of payment lack any security measures, making them appealing to scammers.
- Don’t give personally identifying information such as your Social Security number, date of birth, or bank account number to charitable solicitors.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a partner agency to FDACS at the federal level and also has helpful consumer information on how to donate wisely and avoid charity scams. If consumers have concerns or questions about charities, they can file a complaint or find answers at FloridaConsumerHelp.com [fdacs.gov] or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA en Español.