In response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Commonwealth Financial Network, the independent broker/dealer based in Waltham, Massachusetts, announced that will match up to $100,000 in donations from Commonwealth-affiliated advisors and their staffs, as well as Commonwealth home office staff, on behalf of Haiti relief efforts to three large charities: The American Red Cross, Oxfam, and the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG).
Many large Wall Street firms and other financial services companies have announced cash donations and contributed in different ways to the relief effort, as have many advisors individually and, of course clients.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives unanimously passed by voice vote on January 2000 the bipartisan H.R. 4462, which would allow taxpayers to claim an itemized tax deduction on their 2009, or 2010, income tax returns, as long as the donation is made before March 1, 2010. On January 22, the Senate passed an identical bill; it is expected that President Obama will sign the bill this week.
Reminders on Wise Charitable Giving
Meanwhile, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) reminds taxpayers on steps all Americans should take to "make smart decisions about how to choose where to make relief contributions." The AICPA suggests:
1) Donate to Established Organizations:
Reputable non-profit organizations such as the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and The Salvation Army are staging and providing relief to Haiti. All of these organizations have experience in dealing with these types of disasters and are well established with a solid reputation of monetary and volunteer relief that will go directly to Haiti.
2) Research the Other Organizations Before You Donate:
There are many credible and worthwhile charities that were operating in Haiti before the quake hit that are now in desperate need of financial assistance.
Check the Better Business Bureau site at for information about the charity's mission, compensation, expenses, and rating. Check to see if the charity is a 501(c)(3) organization by visiting this link.
Visit Guidestar.org and type in the charity name, which will allow you to read about the charity and confirm that your donation will be going to the right place.
3) Be an Educated Donor:
Do not give out your personal or financial information freely. If you give a credit card number, address, or birth date, you can easily be a victim of identity theft. Do not respond to unsolicited e-mails, since it could be a scam or the e-mail could contain a virus. The safest way to donate is to call an organization and ask what the best way is to donate to it.
4) Do Additional Research:
The AICPA quotes the American Red Cross Web site: Redcross.org Countless requests have come from people wanting to help. The best way to do that is to make a donation to the American Red Cross International Response Fund at redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. Donors can designate their gifts to Haiti relief. Donations to the International Response Fund allows the American Red Cross to respond to global emergencies and disasters. In addition, several hundred thousand people have chosen to make a mobile donation. Donors can text "Haiti" to 90999 on their cell phone to send a $10 donation to support Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.
When it comes to broader issues of charitable giving, you might want to read Tere D'Amato of Commonwealth's sidebar to her article on charitable gift annuities in the December issue of Investment Advisor, Tere D'Amato provides a checklist on checking out charities.