Giving ’til it hurts

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Let’s talk about charity.

It’s a pretty well known fact that the trucking industry is one of the most charitable communities out there. I have never personally been involved with a group of people so willing to give you half of their last sandwich, or help someone in need. Consequently, a lot of folks get burned by unscrupulous people or organizations, who have no intent of ever spreading the contributions anywhere but around their own bank accounts.

We proudly support the Special Olympics of Missouri each year at the Guilty by Association Truck Show convoy.We proudly support the Special Olympics of Missouri each year at the Guilty by Association Truck Show convoy.

First off, there are 27 different subsections for a 501(c) in the Internal Revenue Code. (Y’all knew this wasn’t going to be easy – we’re dealing with the gubmint here.) I’m not going to go through all 27, mostly because I don’t really understand all of them, but I’ll touch on a couple that should help you make better informed decisions about where you put your donations.

A “non-profit” or “not for profit” organization is chartered at state level. These organizations file paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office to set themselves aside as a group. A non-profit organization is not always tax exempt, and registering as one does not automatically give them such status.

“Charities” are exempt from federal income tax, and must be a formed organization whose documents meet certain requirements. Organizations for purposes that are religious, scientific, testing for public safety, or for the prevention of cruelty to animals or children are some of the categories that fall under charitable.

A “foundation” is established as a nonprofit corporation or a charitable trust. Their principal purpose is to make financial grants for educational, scientific, cultural, religious or other charitable purposes. There are two foundation types. “Private foundations” obtain their money from a family, an individual or a corporation. A “public charity” or “public foundation” obtains monetary support from many sources, including individuals and government agencies.

A GoFundMe page is not a charitable organization, and while there are a lot of them set up for charitable purposes, they are almost completely untraceable when it comes to finding out where the money is actually spent after it’s collected.

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The website is an excellent source for information regarding reputable charities.

All in all, I would like to believe a large portion of the charitable organizations out there are truly set up for the purpose of helping others. However, if the group or individual you’re considering donating to can’t provide you with a 501(c) status of some kind, you might reconsider. If the organization or individual has yet to obtain 501(c) paperwork, a mission statement or firmly established business plan that is publicly available might be something you want to have before donating.

I’m proud to be associated with an industry that is so giving, and it makes me really angry to see people take advantage of it. Just because there’s a pretty face or picture of a truck on a website doesn’t make it an aboveboard cause. Do your research, ask questions and be informed of who and what your money will benefit.

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