Check out the charity before you give this season

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The holidays are rapidly approaching and bells are ringing outside almost every grocery store in the country. Charities, such as the Salvation Army, are set up outside of convenient locations, making it easy to donate. However, they’re only one among many that will benefit from America’s generosity during the holidays. According to the Giving USA Foundation, Americans donated more than $335 billion in 2013, a 4.4 percent increase from 2011.

For many students, donating to charity or helping the less fortunate is just as much a part of the holidays as eggnog and ugly sweaters. However, don’t let your holiday spirit lead you to make poor decisions.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt warns Kansans of scammers claiming to be nonprofit organizations. Schmidt said in a recent news release to “be skeptical if you are solicited by telephone, email or direct mail by somebody claiming to be a charity.”

Schmidt offers two ways to help make donating as safe and helpful as possible: first, Schmidt suggests Kansans visit kscharitycheck.org to check if the organization is registered with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office. Charities that accept donations in the state of Kansas are required to register. Second, use the website to determine what percent of a donation is used to support the cause and how much goes into overhead for the organization.

Giving to charity can be a difficult experience for some students.

“I recently donated to ALS (Association) during the ice bucket challenge and that was pretty straight forward,” Libby Allen, sophomore in mass communications, said. “Donating closer to Christmas I’ll do more planning because I have to buy presents and I want to donate to something that is important to me.”

Fortunately, Powercat Financial Counseling has some tips for incorporating charitable donations into your budget.

“Think of your charitable giving as another family member that you give to, so if you have three family members you buy gifts for, make your charitable causes a fourth family member in your holiday budgeting process,” Jodi Kaus, director of Powercat Financial Counseling, said.

Of course, you can always give to an organization like Salvation Army, where you can donate clothing or books. Donating locally can also be a way of avoiding scams.

“Donating to the Salvation Army is a great way to help out during the holidays,” said Jessie Butler, office manager of the Manhattan Salvation Army. “It helps people here in town and there’s not a lot of hassle.”

The Salvation Army also issues vouchers to people who qualify, who are then able to spend a certain amount of money in the store.

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