12/23/2014 02:13 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2015

With Holiday Giving, Be Merry and Be Wise

The holiday season is always one of the most important times of year for charities around the country and throughout the world. Fortunately, charitable giving is on the rise again this year as the economy picks up and many people feel inspired to give as well as get during this celebratory season. Unfortunately, giving isn't as always as easy as it should be.

Some for-profit companies solicit donations under the name of charities but give little -- if anything -- to the cause and the communities they claim to support.

People tend to underestimate the value of their used household items, and many donors aren't asking enough questions about who their donations will benefit. The sad truth is that while the world is full of people with good intentions, there are always going to be others who try to take advantage of those good intentions.

Throughout my tenure as CEO of Goodwill Industries International, I've been proud to be part of an organization that does all it can to help people give back. Goodwill is proud to be recognized by GuideStar with its Gold Seal of Approval, its highest rating for charities, and we were honored recently to be named by Forbes as the only nonprofit among America's 20 Most Inspiring Companies for our work to provide job training and community-strengthening programs. We see it as part of our mission to educate the public so that donors can make informed choices and ensure that the charities they intend to support actually benefit from their donations.

If you're considering donating to a charity this holiday season, take the time to ask questions and ensure that the charity you choose is worthy of your donation. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

1. Give to charities you know and trust. Note that fraudulent charities often modify the names of established groups, so be sure to carefully read the name of the charity before giving.

2. Familiarize yourself with the organization. Avoid giving to organizations that send unsolicited emails, to those that ask for your credit card number over the telephone, or to those that request payment in cash.

3. Avoid donating to an organization that can't immediately provide you with information about its mission, history and the cause it is asking you to support.

4. Find out how your donation will be used.

Charity-rating agencies such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar can also help you find more information about specific charities.

It's a wonderful thing that so many people are moved to give back during this time of year. Taking a few extra precautions will allow you to take comfort in knowing your holiday donation really will go towards helping someone in need -- and that really does feel good.