CLEVELAND - It's one of the most important decisions you'll make this coming holiday season -- where to make that charitable donation and make every dollar count.
Cleveland Better Business Bureau Vice President Sue McConnell advises the best first step is to verify the charity is registered with the state of Ohio.
"In Ohio, all charities need to be registered with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, so you can go online and look up the Ohio Attorney General. They have a place there where you can check to make sure the charity is properly registered," explained McConnell.
The Ohio Attorney General's website allows consumers to check on a database of registered charities and provide some key advice.
The BBB also has a web page that is filled with information on how to best do research on a charity before you donate.
McConnell told 5 On Your Side the BBB holds charities to 20 different standards, including a minimum acceptable percentage of how much of every dollar must been given directly to the charitable cause.
"The Better Business Bureau standards say at a minimum you need to spend 65 percent of your donations on programs, and no more than 35 percent on related fund raising costs," said McConnell.
"You must also be aware of the charity name game. Some charities use names that are very similar to long standing reputable charities. So make sure that you know who you're giving that donation to. Check them out very carefully."
Beau Hill, Executive Director of the Salvation Army Harbor Light Complex, told NewsChannel5 residents should avoid making donations over the phone.
"Donate to a place that you know. Donate to a place that you've been impacted by, or that they have a realization of really what they do," said Hill. "When it comes to solicitations in general, whether it be by email, or phone, or anything, make sure that the people who you're talking to, or the people you're getting correspondence from, truly are who they say they are."
Meanwhile, The Salvation Army will kick off its annual holiday kettle drive on Friday, Nov. 29. The greater Cleveland chapter is hoping to raise $693,000 to help support 3,200 northeast Ohio families.
For more information on the kettle drive or to find a Salvation Army location near you, simply click on this link.