My money went where?

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Todd Douglas
  • 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron
As a young man in high school, I remember awful stories of people who took advantage of kind-hearted citizens and collected money in the name of charity only to be exposed as frauds. 

The bad publicity had me struggling with the idea that no charity could be trusted. If I had not heard of a specific charity such as the Red Cross or YMCA, I immediately became suspicious. 

After all, what was stopping the next money-crazed person from preying on the generous population? As the last decade has proven, there are still people who will take advantage of the open-minded public. 

Recently, a coworker asked me about how an organization becomes designated as a charity in the Combined Federal Campaign Brochure. I didn't have an answer for her, and I began to recall those stories from my high school days. 

Was I being scammed by a charity I donated to? Could I be lining some guy's greedy pockets? How do I know what I am doing is right? Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are donating to a real charity. 

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to be eligible to participate in the CFC, each charity must be designated as a tax-exempt non-profit organization under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. An application to participate in the CFC must provide specific information about their auditing, governance and program functions, as specified in the CFC regulations at 5 CFR Part 950. 

Specific rules apply according to the charity's designation as unaffiliated or part of a federation. Compliance with the above procedures does not prevent anyone from doing their own research. 

Begin by checking the websites listed in the CFC Brochure. Just because they have a ".org" address doesn't immediately qualify them as a non-profit organization. However, the website can provide an initial feeling of what the charity is about and if it seems legit. Incorrect grammar or word misspellings on the site should raise a red flag. 

Next, check the charity out on a research site such as or These sites are an excellent source of information on charities and their missions. For example, if you are an animal lover, you can get a summary of a specific charity and compare it with other charities. 

Lastly, contact the charity personally. Contact information should be listed on their website. Placing a phone call to the headquarters should answer any final questions you have and alert you to any suspicious activity. 

So no matter what charity you choose to donate to, a little research can ensure your dollars are going where you want them to go. If you feel unsure, check it out on the internet or give the organization a call. I'm sure they would be glad to hear from you.
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