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VERIFY: Is your ‘dollar donation’ being used for a reimbursement?

A viral tweet claims when a retailer asks for a dollar donation, they’ve already made the donation and wanted to get reimbursed.

ATLANTA — With the holidays around the corner, ‘tis the season for charitable giving. In 2018, individual Americans gave $292 billion, according to the Giving USA Report.

Now one tweet is bringing up questions about a common way to donate.

“Fun fact: When a large retailer is asking for a dollar donation to “feed blah blah blah” they already made the donation to the Charity. They’re just looking to get reimbursed from you,” the tweet claimed.

While there’s no retailer named to verify specifics, generally, could such a claim be true? The 11Alive Verify team checked with sources including the Better Business Bureau, Engage for Good, and Charity Watch for answers.

First, insight from the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance, which characterized retailers asking for dollar donations as 'checkout charity giving.'

According to an article on Engage for Good, such checkout donations are a form of 'cause-related marketing,” and when it comes to regulations, Wise Giving Alliance COO Bennett Weiner told 11Alive the charity has to be registered with the state. “In Georgia, that function is carried out by the Secretary of State’s office. About 40 of the 50 states have a similar type of charity registration requirement,” Weiner said in an email. “Solicitations, just like other types of advertising, the appeal should be accurate and truthful and not misleading.”

11Alive inquired whether checkout charities indeed operate like the tweet claimed.

“Bottom line… they don't all operate in the same way,” Weiner said, adding it depends on the written agreement between the retailer and the charity. "But since such a scenario would border on misrepresentation, I can't imagine that most retailers would want to take that risk."

11Alive also checked with Charity Watch for further information on the tweet’s claim. President Daniel Borochoff confirmed he hasn’t seen such, adding he does not endorse checkout charities as a way to give.

“People in a hurry and who are concerned about how others in line judge their generosity are irritated with being asked to give at point of purchase. It's not a smart way to give because one should research a charity before donating,” Borochoff said.

Given these sources, the tweet's claim cannot be verified. However, for those who have got doubts about giving, the Better Business Bureau advises checking to see if a specific charity is named.

“That is more transparent and will also provide the consumer with the ability to check out the group so they can make a more informed choice the next time they are asked to be generous at the register,” Weiner said.  

You can check to see if the charity of your choice is registered with the Georgia Secretary of State. Consumers can also visit Give.org (or BBB.org) to see if the charity meets the BBB Charity Standards.

Charity Watch believes it's better to give directly rather than through a third-party. Learn more of the organization's donating tips here

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