Double-checking 9/11 charities

September 9, 2011

James Love is a 3rd generation firefighter. He started Black Helmet Apparel 3-years ago and donates some of profits to charities that support fire departments. With the 9/11 anniversary approaching Love designed a line of tribute t-shirts.

"We should remember forever and I just wanted to do something that everyone would see," Love said. He donates 1% of his sales, that's roughly $2 to $3 a shirt, to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

At Lieb Cellars in Long Island, wine makers are also giving back. The vineyard is donating all proceeds from the sale of a commemorative wine to the National September 11th Memorial and Museum.

But a quick search online turns up lots of products being sold purely for profit.

"Marketers know that is the touch stone for a lot of people so it is an opportunity to sell a lot of products," according to Ken Berger of Charity Navigator, a company that keeps a close eye on charitable giving. Berger says cause related merchandise can be a very powerful way to raise money.

"It's a wonderful gesture of remembrance," Berger adds, "but be careful to do it in such a way that if you want to see some money going to charity that it truly is."

Berger says products being sold for a cause should list the charity name either directly on the packaging or on the website. You should also be able to see how much money the non-profit receives.

"Sometimes a charity may make a miniscule amount of money and the for-profit will garner a tremendous amount. It's really not helping a great deal."

What's Berger's best advice?

"The heart always needs to be a part of the process but we are saying use your head."

Charity Navigator tracks hundreds of 9-11 charities still accepting donations for victims, their families and memorials.

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