Philanthropy has increased exponentially over the last several years with thousands of new charities appearing. However, with so many new charities, there are also more scams out there than ever before. Many people prey on those with a charitable mindset, advertising fantastic opportunities that don’t really exist or only donate a small portion of donations to the actual cause. If you’re donating time and money to an organization, it’s important that you determine whether or not it’s legitimate beforehand so you don’t waste valuable resources that could be better used for a charity that actually helps the cause.

Check out reliable websites

Fantastic resources to verify the legitimacy of certain philanthropies are a few sites that keep records of real charities and ones that are more questionable. Probably the most popular resource is Charity Navigator, which gives ratings for different philanthropies on a variety of points, such as how they allocate their funds and the quality of assistance they provide. GuideStar performs a function similar to Charity Navigator, but also provides government documents to prove a philanthropy’s status.

Look out for secure donation method

When you find a charity, before donating, make sure you can do so through a secure method. Avoid sending cash in the mail or giving your credit card information over the phone or in an email. Check to see if the connection is secure and your personal information will be protected. If possible, write a check. Remember, before donating money, make sure the organization is listed as a legitimate philanthropy.

Do your own research

While checking out reliable websites that list and rank philanthropies is useful, sometimes an organization is just too small or hasn’t been registered on those sites. Even if a charity is on the site, do some research of your own. Take time to look up social media accounts and google the name of the philanthropy to see what comes up. If you can find evidence of volunteer work, testimonials, and an online presence, it’ll be easier to determine whether or not you’re dealing with a serious philanthropy.

Watch out for unknown emails

A major red flag for spotting imposter philanthropies is random emails. If an organization emails you and asks you to immediately send money, but you’ve never given them your contact information, something is off. Do some research and find out if this email scam is common. The same holds true for random phone calls. If someone calls and says they’re with an organization and tries to immediately pressure you into donating money over the phone, hang up.

Find out what the money goes toward

Learning how your money is being used is a great way to determine whether or not a philanthropy is legitimate. An actual charity can never give 100% of their donations to the cause they support, unless they have significant amounts of private funding or some other source of income. If a philanthropy tells you all of their donations go toward the cause, do some more research to make sure they’re legitimate. However, make sure that an organization isn’t spending the majority of their donations on program costs either.