With the destruction left by Typhoon Odette in its wake, various organizations and foundations called for every generous soul to donate and help the victims. The same thing happened at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But along the genuine initiatives and acts of bayanihan came the scams and deception meant to exploit the goodwill of people.

Before you donate, determine if your chosen charity or nonprofit organization is legitimate. This way you can rest assured that your contributions will end up to those who truly need them. As part of your research, ask yourself these questions:

Does the nonprofit provide financial statements?

A good nonprofit does not hesitate in showing how it has spent and distributed its funds and goods. The organization must embrace full transparency by subjecting itself to regular financial audits and publishing reports and data on a regular basis. It holds itself accountable to its stakeholders for the choices it made.

That said, find an organization that uses most of its donations for its missions and programs. Avoid charities where funds are focused more on administration, fundraising, and overhead costs instead of direct program spending.

A legitimate, well-established nonprofit receive recognition and praise. It also regularly applies for accreditations and certifications to prove that it has met with minimum quality standards in financial management and accountability. In the Philippines, a notable accrediting body is the Philippine Council for NGO Certification Inc., whose recommendation is used by the Bureau of Internal Revenue as the basis to grant a nonprofit the “donee institution status.”

Accrediting organizations may publish their list of certified nonprofits. See if your chosen nonprofit is mentioned in these lists. Other accrediting organizations in the Philippines are often government agencies in the executive branch, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

If your chosen charity or nonprofit is an international organization with outreach programs encompassing multiple countries, check how the nonprofit fares according to the following charity monitoring/assessment organizations:

Naturally, you ought to check if the organization or body behind the accreditation has actual worth and credibility. A sketchy charity can easily obtain certification from a random accrediting body to pat itself on the back.


Is the nonprofit free of controversy?

While accreditation can help us identify which nonprofits are of good standing, dubious ones can still slip past screening and manage to earn certifications. For this, we can thank the reports from watchdog organizations, whistleblowers, and newsrooms focused on investigative journalism. If the nonprofit has appeared in the news in a bad light, then perhaps your donations are better given to another nonprofit.

In 2019, for instance, the Anti-Money Laundering (AMLC) revealed that several nonprofit organizations turned out to be dummy corporations. They were used by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles to launder government funds as part of a scheme known in 2013 as the pork barrel scam. The anti-money laundering watchdog also confirmed in 2006 that the International Islamic Relief Organization, a charity with a headquarters in Saudi Arabia, was used to funnel money from a group affiliated with Osama Bin Laden to local terrorists in the Philippines.

Should you avoid small, local, or relatively unknown charities?

A newly launched charity or foundation has yet to make a name for itself and therefore doesn’t have any accreditation and accolades. In cases of unfamiliar charities, it’s ultimately up to you if you want to entrust your money and in-kind donations to them. To avoid any shams disguised as charities, common sense will tell you to look for signs of a scam. These warning signs include:

  • The poster child or beneficiaries shown in promotional images are merely duplicate images obtained elsewhere on the Internet. It’s easy for anyone to claim or invent stories and photos and create a fake charity, so that donations go to them instead of the real victims.
  • The supposed charity is asking for confidential personal information that’s irrelevant to your intent to donate. Such information can be used for identity theft.
  • You are being forced to donate immediately and frequently as opposed to being able to donate of your own volition.
  • You’re asked to send payment via wire transfer, gift cards, or other methods in which transactions are hard or impossible to trace.
  • The solicitor or representative evades or fails to properly answer questions regarding the charity.
  • The name of the charity is quite similar to a well-established organization. Similarly, if charity has one, the website may feature a design and user interface that’s suspiciously identical to that of another charity.

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