'Tis The Season for Shopping...and Giving

With the economy surging and holiday spending expected to reach a record high this year, charitable organizations and non-profits are also hoping for a windfall of generosity.  The Salvation Army is gearing up for its busiest time of the year.  "We're expecting to serve more than 18,000 children and seniors through our Christmas assistance program this year, which is a large undertaking," says Major Kent Davis with the Salvation Army Greater Houston Command

The Salvation Army's Christmas efforts go beyond the visible red kettles and bell-ringers we all see outside of stores.  "You can also for Christmas adopt an angel, and help a child so they won't miss Christmas," says Davis.  "And that's important to us, that every child has something from Santa Claus."

Legitimate well-known charities like the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities get the bulk of donations during the holiday season, but there are plenty of others as well.  However, it's important to be careful of charitable scams trying to prey on people's generosity this time of year.  "Be very cautious if someone is wanting you to give on the spot," says Leah Napoliello with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston.  "If they don't really allow you the time to really fully research the charity and make sure it is legitimate."

Regardless of where or how you give, it's important to be wise about it.  "You want to make sure if you're giving online, that you're giving on a secure site," says Napoliello.  "So the browser address should say https, and that s is for secure."

Essentially, do your homework and know exactly who you are donating to beforehand, then make sure you do so in a secure way.  Both the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator have lists and reviews of reputable charities.  Or you can reach out to the organization directly.  "Sometimes you have to contact them in advance, and that can be a good first step if you're researching a non-profit," says Napoliello.

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