Christmas is the season of giving but do you really know what your money is being used for? In 2016, the world watched as the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity that helps veterans and their families, unraveled. Tax reports showed excessive spending on conferences that catered to the executives. Where did the executives get the money to fund these lavish conferences? Donations. The Wounded Warrior Project has since been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Better Business Bureau.
More recently, a GoFundMe page scandal has sparked controversy. It all started when Kate McClure, a resident of New Jersey, claimed that a homeless veteran, Johnny Bobbitt, used his last $20 to help her buy gas when she was stranded. The story received national attention, appearing on news outlets like NBC's Today Show.
McClure set up a GoFundMe page for Bobbitt with a goal of $10,000. Nearly 14,000 donors participated in the campaign and $400,000 was raised. It has since been revealed by New Jersey prosecutors that Bobbitt, McClure, and her boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, had made the story up in an effort to scam money out of people. The money, which donors believed would help a homeless veteran, was instead spent on luxury goods and expensive trips for McClure and D'Amico. Even though GoFundMe will reimburse the scammed donors, many are left with a bitter taste in their mouth and, in the future, will not be as willing to help someone in need.
So as you begin to spread some Christmas cheer, here are some ways to ensure that your money will go towards those who actually need it.
1)Go to https://www.charitywatch.org/top-rated-charities to find a list of reliable charities.
Charity Watch is an organization that analyzes the financial reports of charities to ensure that the money being raised goes towards those who need it.
2) Avoid GoFundMe pages.
Whoever sets up the GoFundMe page gets the money. Period. If you don't know who set the page up, don't donate. Your money could be funding a scam.
3) Donate directly to charities through their official websites.
Cut out the middle man. It will ensure that your money goes to the right place and people.
4) No details, no donation.
If the person asking you to donate doesn't give you details on how your donation will be used don't donate. There's a reason why they won't tell you.
5) Checks should be made out to the charity not a person.
The donations are for the charity. Keep it that way.
However you decide to give this Christmas, be smart about it. And remember that showing your generosity and compassion through giving is not a weakness. It's a strength of our human character that needs to be celebrated.