How to Contact the Better Business Bureau. Most people are aware they can contact their Better Business Bureau (BBB) to complain about bad service from a local business. But the BBB can also help when you want to check up on a charity you're interested in supporting. The Wise Giving Alliance is a Better Business Bureau organization designed to help potential donors make good decisions. It also promotes high standards for charities that ask for contributions.

Call your local Better Business Bureau to ask about a specific charity. You can also check up on the charity by accessing the BBB's website (see Resources). The BBB does not rank charities.

Ask for a report on the charity. The BBB's "Start with Trust" campaign produces in-depth reports on national charities. All charities that meet the BBB's rigorous standards are called "BBB Accredited Charities."

Inquire if there are any local complaints about the charity. Get as much detail as you can before making a donation.

Check for the BBB National Seal. This means the charity has met the BBB's comprehensive standards, and it can be displayed in all the charity's solicitation materials. Remember, however, that participation in the seal program is completely optional for a charity. A charity that is worthwhile and completely honest may not choose to participate. It's important to note that participation in the BBB seal program does require a fee to be paid by the charity.