I came across this article in Forbes, discussing how perhaps the advent of the Kony 2012 campaign, which I recently wrote about, broaching the idea that people consider charitable giving as a part of their Estate Plan.

The author in the Forbes article addresses the potential for people to worry about the legitimacy of some organizations, especially in the age of growing internet fraud. In addition to his tips regarding the sites listed below, it's also not a bad idea to start contributing to charities you are interested in now. That way you will not only have a better sense of the organization, but you can become more involved in potentially creating a more personalized plan based on the group's needs, rather than a lump sum payment without any particular goal in mind.

For example, in addition to creating a trust which has the discretion to spend money on projects within it's purpose, and may avoid certain tax liabilities, you might also decide to purchase a swingset for a nearby school, or to sponsor an area in a local library, or to purchase a building for your alma matter, etc.

CharityNavigator.org and GuideStar.org are two companies who gather data about charitable organizations, and further analyze how much of a charity’s donations actually go to those in need versus how much is allocated to administrative costs and fund raising expenses. I found Charity Navigator to be more informative in terms of which dollars go to what, and it also lists charities that conduct similar types of work, whereas GuideStar seems to have a more exhaustive list of organizations, and it somewhat easier to navigate. Both, however, are excellent research tools.

Additionally, here is an article from LawInfo about how to make sure that your money is going to a legitimate charity. It contains helpful tips such as the following: State Attorneys General have charitable divisions that maintain information about both legitimate charities and fraudulent entities that have posed as charities in the past.

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