Make sure your holiday charity isn't a turkey

November 14, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Just as surely as Christmas follows Thanksgiving, someone will approach you this holiday season seeking donations for charity.

The request could come by mail or telephone or face-to-face on a crowded street.

Think twice before handing over cash, says the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Some of the folks collecting money are their own favorite charities.

Aside from con artists looking to steal your money outright, other solicitors may work for organizations that spend most of the public donations received on executive salaries and fund-raising.

Here are some tips to help sort out the bad eggs:

* If you are approached on behalf of an unfamiliar charity, ask the solicitor to mail you a copy of the organization's last annual report or financial statement so you can determine how it uses its money.

* Never give your credit card number over the telephone, and don't send cash. Checks should be made payable to the charity, using its full name.

* Don't be pressured into making an immediate donation. A charity that needs your money today will need it tomorrow, too.

* If you are asked by an independent fund-raiser to donate, find out what portion of your donation will go to the charitable organization. In some cases, the fund-raiser may keep most of the cash.

*

Interest rates have taken another dip for people who hold U.S. Savings Bonds. For the next six months, the bonds will earn 4.25 percent, the lowest level since the government began selling variable-rate bonds in 1982.

The new rate, in effect through April 30, is down from 4.78 percent during the past six months. Rates are adjusted every May 1 and Nov. 1 to reflect changes in market-based rates.

Bonds held five years or more are guaranteed to earn at least 4 percent. Technically, over the life of the bond you earn the average of the rates for each six-month period or 4 percent, whichever is higher.

For bonds that were purchased before March 1, the guaranteed minimum is 6 percent.

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