The ePhilanthropy Foundation, urges donors to closely examine the online charities seeking their support this holiday season, and to follow these 10 tips to safe and secure online giving.
Online giving in the USA last year amounted to approximately $2.6 billion and around the world more than $5 billion. The rate of online giving has risen steadily throughout the past few years. With the devastation caused by several massive natural disasters from tsunami to hurricane to earthquake drawing worldwide attention, there is no doubt millions of new donors will give online this holiday season.
Individuals rather than corporations or foundations are responsible for as much as 75 percent of annual giving. Half of these individual donations typically occur in the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Given those facts, it is crucial that donors research their online giving choices to ensure their support is going to charities they care about for work they value. We've created this ePhilanthropy Holiday Online Giving Guide to make certain your holiday donations reach their intended good causes.
The Internet provides generous Americans with a wide range of opportunities to help others -- quickly and easily. To help ensure your gift goes directly to the organization you want to support, here are 10 tips to safe and secure online giving based on the Foundation’s ePhilanthropy Code of Ethical Online Philanthropic Practices.
If the charity of your choice does not meet these criteria, don’t give to them online. For charities reading this Guide, we urge you to meet these criteria before you invite donors to give.
Happy Holidays from all your friends at the ePhilanthropy Foundation!
The ePhilanthropy Foundation’s
Holiday Online Giving Guide
Online Tip #1: Know Your Charity
Make sure you know the exact name of the organization you wish to support. Some charities or websites have names that sound similar. In order to confirm you’re donating to a legitimate nonprofit, you should be familiar with the name and reputation of the charity you intend to support. If in doubt, check with your local United Way, Better Business Bureau, State/Government Office or Community Information Center.
Online Tip #2: Give to Legitimate Charities
Only give to charities recognized by the appropriate governmental body in their respective country. Look for the charity to explain their tax-exempt or nonprofit (NGO) status in a FAQ or similar area of their website. You should understand before you make a gift what type of tax receipt you can expect. Some advocacy organizations are not allowed by law to issue tax deductible receipts, but you may still wish to support their work. If in doubt, ask the charity to provide an explanation before you give.
Online Tip #3: Ask Questions
Any legitimate charity seeking your support online or off will give you ample opportunities to ask questions and learn about their mission. In the USA, you can learn a lot about a charity from a document it files annually with the IRS called the 990 Form. Most nonprofits are legally required to provide this information when asked. You can also find 990 Forms for many charities online at http://www.guidestar.org. Charities outside the USA and religious-based charities may not be required to file a 990 but should provide other documents, such as annual reports, etc., at your request.
Online Tip #4: Give Safely
Make sure the charity’s website uses encryption technology for online donations and data transmission. Before providing any sensitive or confidential information (i.e., credit card number, personal identification data, etc.), verify the submission page is secure (encrypted). The letters https:// - rather than http:// - should precede the page's URL and/or there should be an unbroken key or padlock symbol located in the corner of the web browser. If in doubt, contact the charity by telephone or by email before you provide the information online.
Online Tip #5: Give Directly
The Internet provides tremendous opportunities to support the charity of your choice directly. Don’t get taken by “charity” or “someone is in need” chain letters. Emails that claim money will go to a specified charity each time the message is forwarded are not true. If you do not already have a relationship with the charity, do not respond to email solicitations. Legitimate charities will only email you if you have given them permission. If your charity does not provide online giving opportunities at their website, consider giving to them through http://www.networkforgood.org or http://www.justgive.org ; in Canada at http://www.canadahelps.org ; or in the UK at http://www.givenow.org , which provide searchable databases of hundreds of thousands of charities able to receive online donations.
Online Tip #6: Demand Privacy
Online Tip #7: Keep Records
Print a copy of the final confirmation screen that appears after you make your gift. Also keep a copy of the charitable gift confirmation email for your records. If you don’t receive an email confirmation (and in most cases, a confirmation by mail as well), contact the charity to make sure they received your gift. Avoid donating to that charity online again until you are certain they have brought their online solicitation policies in line with these tips.
Online Tip #8: Look for Contact Information
A reputable charity will provide several contact methods in case you need assistance with questions, problems or service. Look for a charity’s address and telephone number as well as their email address.
Online Tip #9: Know How Donations Are Used
A reputable charity will want to share more of their work with you and describe how they plan to use your gift to fulfill their mission. If you are not certain how the charity will use your charitable gift, ask!
Online Tip #10: Look for Accountability
Your favorite charity should provide regular stewardship updates through email or its website on its use of donated funds to fulfill its mission.
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