The BBB encourages consumers to look for companies that disclose a charity name, the amount of a sale going to the charity, the duration of marketing campaigns and, if applicable, the maximum or minimum contribution amount.
"The ultimate goal is for a significant portion or all of the purchase to end up in the intended charity's hands," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Consumers can ensure this will happen by asking the right questions when donating to any cause."
While many pink ribbon marketing campaigns are trustworthy, consumers can eliminate the possibility of supporting companies that market false donation claims by doing the following:
* Research the charity with the BBB. If the product or service is in support of an unfamiliar charity, learn more about the organization by reviewing the BBB's charity report online at www.bbb.org/charity
* Identify the charity receiving the donation. If the product or service is linked to a donation percentage, contact the business or manufacturer to determine exactly where the money is going and what percentage is donated.
* Confirm the charity's corporate partners. Many national breast cancer charities list the names of corporate partners and sponsors on their websites.
* In addition to purchasing products and services, consumers may receive solicitations for general donations over the phone. According to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month organization, the group does not solicit contributions and has not authorized the use of its name for solicitation purposes. The BBB suggests that you contact the charity directly to confirm any telephone solicitations.
Additional charitable giving advice includes:
* Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity does.
* If you contribute, do not give cash. Use a credit card or check or money order made out to the name of the charitable organization, not to the individual collecting the donation.
* Watch out for excessive pressure for on-the-spot donations. Be wary of any requests to send a "runner" to pick up your donation.
* Keep records of your donations (receipts, canceled checks, and bank statements) so you can document your charitable giving at tax time. Although the value of your time as a volunteer is not deductible, out-of-pocket expenses (including transportation costs) directly related to your volunteer service to a charity are deductible.
* Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs.
Bernas adds, "Ask how much of your gift will be used for the activity mentioned in the appeal and how much will go toward other programs and administrative and fundraising costs."
For more information on how to ensure that your donation gets into the right hands, visit