Use the following tools are a few resources for donors to reduce unwanted solicitations, research charitable organizations, and ensure that your charitable gift or money will be used as you intended. These resources are listed for your convenience and reference only, and should not be considered an endorsement by the Department of Financial Institutions. We believe these links may be helpful; however, the Department of Financial Institutions is not responsible for the content or accuracy of these websites.
Make sure you are donating to a legitimate charity:
- If you receive an e-mail or text message asking for a donation, confirm that the request is from the charity, and not an imposter, by contacting the charity or visiting its website.
- You can also check out the following resources to learn more about specific charities: Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, IRS Select Check, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and Foundation Center.
- Be cautious of "look-alike" websites. These fraudulent websites will often ask for personal financial information or may download harmful malware into your computer.
- Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes these sound-alike names are simply intended to confuse donors.
- Don't assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs, or other social media have already been vetted. Research the charity yourself.
- Individual supporters, like yourself, can raise money for charities through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Supporters can set up fundraising pages on fundraising platform websites to raise money from friends and family members for their favorite cause.
- If you want to set up a peer-to-peer fundraising page, please contact the charity beforehand to get permission to use its name and to make sure the representations you make on your page are correct.
- If you want to make a donation on a peer-to-peer fundraising page, first make sure that your donation is going directly to the charity and not the individual supporter.
- Find out what percentage of your donation will go to the charity and whether you will be charged any fees for making a donation through the fundraising platform website.
- Be cautious when considering giving to newly formed charities since they won't have a track record that you can take into consideration.
- Be extra vigilant when donating online in the wake of natural disasters or national tragedies.
- Some charities are formed shortly thereafter and may have the best of intentions; however, an existing charity is more likely to have the sound management and experience to quickly respond to these situations, and it will have a track record which you can review.
- Also, be aware of sham charities that pop up to take advantage of people's generosity during these times.
- You may want to give to a specific program or purpose within a charity; for example, disaster relief. If a website has a "donate" button, see whether you can designate a specific purpose for your donation. If you can't, contact the charity to be sure your donation will be spent for the purposes you intend.
- Some charities sell merchandise online and claim that "100% of the proceeds" will benefit the charitable purpose. But "100% of the proceeds" does not necessarily mean 100% of the sales price. Contact the charity to ask how much of each purchase it will receive. If they cannot give you an answer, consider donating another way.
- Be sure if you are donating online that the website is secure. If the address changes from "http" to "https" when you go to donate, you are using a site that is secure.
- There are thousands of scams online seeking to trick you out of your personal information. Be cautious – never give out your social security number or other financial information.
- Be wary if you receive an e-mail request for a donation. If the sender is unfamiliar, you may want to delete the e-mail message without opening it.
- If you are considering making a gift to an individual or family, instead of an established charity, please keep the following information in mind:
- Ask the fundraiser whether there is a trust or deposit account established for the individual's or family's benefit. Contact the banking institution to verify the existence of the account, and check locally to confirm that there really is such a need.
- Do not give cash. Contribute by check that is payable to the fund, not to an individual, and mail directly to the fund.
- Contributions earmarked for relief of a particular individual or family are not tax deductible, even if they are made to a qualified charitable organization. Ask whether the charitable contribution is tax deductible, and verify with your tax advisor or the IRS. The fact that a charity has a tax identification number does not necessarily mean your contribution is tax deductible. Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax deductible.
- If you wish to establish a fund to assist victims of a tragedy, be especially careful to respect the wishes of the victim's family and friends. The law requires that you have written permission to use the names or photographs of any person or organization in your fundraising appeals, and you may also have to register with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions before any solicitations occur. Be specific and transparent about how the funds will help victims or their families and how quickly collected funds will be distributed. Be clear in your fundraising appeal from the beginning if there are multiple purposes for the fund, such as funding future community needs related to the tragedy. Many donors give with the expectation that all funds will be distributed quickly and solely to victims and their families.
Reducing Unwanted Solicitations
To Reduce Telemarketing Calls
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Wisconsin uses the National Do Not Call list for registrations.
- If you ask a charitable organization to stop calling you, they should place your name on their internal "do not call list." Violators should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Professional fundraisers are subject to the Federal Telemarketing Sales Rule that states that a paid solicitor must maintain a charity specific "do not call list." The caller can simply say, "thank you for calling, but please place me on your do not call list." This applies only to the particular charity that the paid solicitor is calling on behalf of. You may get calls from the same paid solicitor on behalf of other charities. If they continue to call you, they should also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
Note: Charities are not subject to the National or Wisconsin No Call Lists.
To Reduce Unwanted Mail Solicitations
- Contact the charitable organization that you received a solicitation from and ask them to remove you from their "donor list."
- If the charitable organization utilizes a paid fundraiser, request that the fundraiser remove your name from the charitable organization's donor list.
To Reduce Junk Mail
- Call the "Opt Out" hotline, 888-567-8688, for the four major credit reporting companies, Equifax, Trans Union, Innovis, and Experian. Consumer credit reporting companies are permitted to include your name on lists creditors and insurers use to make credit/insurance offers to you. Adding your name to the Opt Out list should reduce the number of credit card and insurance offers you receive because your name won't be included on the lists that the credit reporting companies provide to the creditors and insurers.
- "Opt Out" of the mailing lists generated by companies you do business with. These companies may sell or trade your name and address unless you specifically request that your information be kept private. In some cases, when you order from a catalog or apply for a credit card, there will be a small box for you to check if you wish to "Opt Out" of its mailing distribution list.
- "Opt Out" of receiving mail from many national companies by registering with Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) Mail Preference Service. DMA is the official mail preference service for the catalog and direct marketing community. Visit the DMA website at
www.dmachoice.org for information on how to opt out, or call DMA customer service at 212-790-1500.
- Avoid sweepstakes. Their intention is to collect names and addresses for the purpose of selling the list to marketers.
Online Resources for Donors
Federal Government sites:
- Internal Revenue Service:
- Search for a charitable organization to find out if a charity is exempt from federal taxation and if your contribution is tax-deductible.
- Federal Trade Commission, National Do Not Call Registry:
- Register for the National Do Not Call Registry. Wisconsin uses the national registration Note: charitable organizations are exempt from the Do Not Call Registry.
State Government Sites:
- Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions:
- Search the state database for charitable organizations that are registered to solicit contributions in Wisconsin.
- Better Business Bureau:
- A private, nonprofit organization that aids consumers and business by supplying reports on the reliability of companies and charities. The BBB also provides information about scams and fraudulent business behavior.
- Better Business Bureau, Wise Giving Alliance:
- Provides information about specific charities, has tips and advice for giving, and offers a Wise Giving Guide.
- Charity Navigator:
- A private, independent organization that evaluates and provides ratings and review on over 5,300 charities after assessing the financial health of these charities.
- Charity Watch:
- America’s most independent, assertive charity watchdog that rates charities on an A+ to F scale.
- Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability:
- An accreditation agency which helps Christian, nonprofit organizations establish standards for financial accountability, fundraising and board governance.
- Candid GuideStar:
- View copies of an organization's IRS 990 information returns. GuideStar provides information on the programs, activities and finances of more than 640,000 nonprofit organizations.
- Ministry Watch:
- An independent donor advocate facilitating the information needs of donors and offering an online database that profiles faith-based charities and includes reports on nonprofit ministries.
- National Center for Charitable Statistics, The Urban Institute:
- NCCS is a national clearinghouse of data on the nonprofit sector in the U.S.
- National Philanthropic Trust:
- A public charity that provides various resources to donors.
Phone: (608) 267-1711
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
Division of Corporate and Consumer Services
PO Box 7879
Madison, WI 53707-7879
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
Division of Corporate and Consumer Services
4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower
Madison, WI 53705