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Holiday Donations: Dos and Don'ts

It's the holiday giving season, but not all charities are the same.

CBS 58's Jacob Kittilstad looked into how to make sure you're giving to the right one.

Major Steven Merritt supervises more than a dozen volunteers at the Salvation Army.

"Everything Christmas happens right here at this site,” said Merritt.  "These toys are for is for our prison toy program - individuals who are incarcerated through the holiday season have an opportunity to choose a toy for their child."

Major Merritt said the Salvation Army is more than happy to get you more information on their structure.

He said their goal for the holiday season is to raise $4 million for this program and others.

The Salvation Army has the benefit of name recognition, but the Better Business Bureau warns you should always do some research before making a donation to any group this holiday season.

"The Salvation Army has a number of checks and balances that are in place. One of the greater items that the Salvation Army has is an advisory board. There aren't any expenditures that the Salvation Army makes that is not approved by our advisory board,” said Merritt.

The BBB's charity system rates charities.

The ratings include how much money goes to the program as opposed to overhead.

A search can show just how little percentage.

CBS 58 found some giving less than 3% overall.

Check out these tips from the BBB:

  • make sure you get the charities exact name
  • press for specifics
  • don't assume every organization is tax exempt
  • be wary of heart-wrenching appeals or pressure to give on-the-spot.
  • Don't be pressured into making a decision if someone calls you on the phone. if it's a real legitimate charity they'll take your check a month from now. it doesn't have to be today.
  • don't send cash
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