Giving to those in need is an amazing feeling. Beyond the act of helping someone who truly needs it, it feels amazing to do some real good for your global community. However, modern hucksters and con men have wormed their way into one of the last reputable industries, and your donation dollar may not be going where you’d like it to. What are some ways you can avoid being conned by these characters? How can you best protect your donation to ensure it gets to who needs it most? Below are several tips that can help you give smarter.

Do Your Homework: So you’re deciding on a charity. You’ve picked out your top candidates, and it’s time to be sure they are on the level. I strongly suggest that you commit to researching your charity as though it were an investment. With websites like guidestar.org listing the IRS information for over 1.8 million non-profits, or charitynavigator.org and their ranking system based on charity transparency and efficacy, you’re never short on screening tools. Remember, though giving to charity has both personal and financial benefits, you want to be certain that your dollar is serving its intended purpose.

Invest in your investment: When donating to a charity, plan for the long haul. Assuming your research has yielded a charity that both helps your intended cause and carries itself well, you’ll want to start building a relationship with that charity. One large donation, while always helpful, pales in comparison to years of steady giving. A single donation doesn’t often result in the same good that constant donations can bring. Imagine doing all this work to find the perfect charity, only to donate once and be done with it.

David MantekIn 2015, the average household was donating over $2,000 to favorite causes and charities. However, divided or multiple organizations, some lacking in upstanding qualities, means the giving season doesn’t make for all that much change. It’s only through making a focused effort that a donation creates an impact. And if you’re looking to brighten up someone’s Christmas, I think you’d want to do it right. For more information on the subject, click here.