Giving Back | Jacksonville.com

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Seniors can give safely and successfully

People often gain a greater sense of purpose and happiness after giving to charity, and seniors are no exception. According to a study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, today's retirees are almost six times more likely to define success by generosity than their wealth when compared to seniors of yesteryear.

Seniors' eagerness to give makes them prime targets for charity fraud. Giving in retirement while avoiding fraudsters is challenging, but seniors who recognize their vulnerability can reduce their risk of falling victim to criminals.

Research before giving

To ensure a donation will be spent in the way it was intended, seniors should thoroughly research organizations before becoming donors. One of the first places to start is Charity Navigator. A 501(c)(3) public charity, Charity Navigator has been steering the public in the right direction regarding charities since 2001. Their analysts research thousands of financial documents, rating charities on accountability, transparency and performance, among other criteria.

Individuals also can research charities by getting recommendations from friends and family, as well as learning about organizations through the Better Business Bureau. Online rankings and scam alerts can help with decision-making as well.

Don't feel pressured

High-quality charities do not need to resort to pressure tactics to solicit funds. Similarly, individuals should not feel put upon to donate because of gifts received in the mail. Such gifts commonly include note pads and return address labels. Seniors should make donations based on how they feel about a particular charity and the difference they want to make.

Be aware of sound-alike charities

Some fraudulent charities like to piggyback on the success of reputable organizations. They may operate under names that sound similar to legitimate charities or create business logos that are nearly identical. People should not be fooled by these tactics.

Explore all the ways to give

Seniors can give back in various ways. Charitable gift annuities and charitable trusts are great ways to give, and seniors can even donate senior discounts through a giving site called Boomerang Giving. Seniors also can volunteer their time.

Donate directly

Contact a charity directly to donate instead of using a middle person or unconfirmed entity on the phone. Use a credit card or check so there is a receipt of the donation.

Opt out of information sharing

Donating to one charity should not result in a deluge of solicitations from others. Individuals should tell a charity they do not want their personal information shared. This also helps to reduce the risk of being contacted by bogus charities.

Seniors who give to charity reap many rewards. But safeguarding one's finances is of paramount importance when donating to charity.