FORT MYERS, Fla. - You can't turn on a computer without coming across another ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The viral fundraiser has raised millions of dollars for ALS, also known as Lou Gherig's Disease.
It's a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There's no cure. People are quick to open up their wallets, whether it's for ALS or any other organization. And, they have great intentions. We're not saying you shouldn't donate. Rather, here are some tools that'll help you know who you're giving to and how they're using your money.
One bag of ice + one bucket full of water + a donation to the ALS Association and you have the Ice Bucket Challenge. In nearly a month, the viral campaign has raised $32 million dollars for the organization, compared to about $2 million during the same time last year.
But, before you subtract from your checking account for any charity, do your homework.
"Was there compensation for the officers of the charity? What's their corporate governance? How much of the money goes for fundraising versus administration, versus how much is going to go to the people in the organization you are trying to benefit," Financial Advisor Todd Macke explained.
There are a variety of charity check websites out there: Guidestar, Charity Navigator and Give.org. Take Charity Navigator, for example. It gives the national ALS Association 4 out of 4 stars, based on financial health as well as accountability and transparency.
You'll also want to check with thr IRS to see if it's tax-exempt. "If not, you may be surprised that when you want to claim that as a deduction, you'll be prevented from doing so," Macke said.
You can also pull the organization's IRS form 990. It'll tell you everything from how much is spent on travel to how much the CEO makes.
Finally, ask where the charity is spending your money. That information is often right on the organization's website. Last year, ALS Association gave 7% to administration, 14% to fundraising, 19% to patient and community services, 27% to research, and 32% to public and professional education.
The Florida Division of Consumer Services also offers a gift giver's guide if you're donating to in-state organizations.
Here's a full list of websites that will help you make good decisions: