The Internet can provide generous Americans with a wide range of opportunities to help others quickly and easily. To help ensure that your gift doesn't go to the wrong organization and to help ensure that gift goes directly to the organization you want to support, here are 10 tips for online giving that will help ensure your online giving is safe and secure. These tips are based on its ePhilanthropy Code of Ethical Online Philanthropic Practices
- Know Your Charity.
Make sure you have the exact name of the organization. Some charities or charity Web sites have names that sound similar and you need to make sure it's a legitimate nonprofit. Before you give online you should be familiar with the name and reputation of the charity you intend to support.[...]
- 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 nonprofit (NGO) status in a FAQ or similar area of their Web site. You should also be aware that some advocacy organizations are not allowed by law to issue tax deductible receipts, you may still wish to support their work, however our advice is to understand before you make the gift what type of tax receipt you can expect.
- Feel Free to Ask Questions.
Any legitimate charity seeking your support via the Internet or offline will give you ample opportunities to ask questions and to learn about their mission. In the US you can learn a lot about a charity by ask for the document the charity files with IRS each year called the 990 Form. Nonprofit organizations are required by law to provide this information when asked. If you prefer you can find a copy already posted online at http://www.guidestar.org.
- Give Safely.
Make sure the charity site uses encryption technology that ensures appropriate security for online donations and data transmission. Before entering any information you consider sensitive (i.e. credit card number, personal identification data, etc), verify that the page requesting your credit card information 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 e-mail before you provide the information online.
- Consider Giving 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. E-mails that claim money will go to a specified charity each time the message is forwarded are not true. If your charity does not provide online giving opportunities at their Web site, consider giving through Network for Good which provides all registered charities in the U.S. the ability to receive online donations.
- Demand Privacy.
- Keep Records.
Print a copy of the final confirmation screen that appears when you have made your gift. In addition, keep a copy of your charitable gift confirmation e-mail for your records. If you do not receive a confirmation of the gift by e-mail (and in most cases by mail as well), do not give to that charity online again, until you are certain they have brought their online solicitation policies inline with these tips. In such cases, contact the charity to make sure they received your gift and request confirmation of the gift.
- Look For Contact Information.
A reputable charity will make certain contact information is readily available in case you need assistance with questions, problems, or service. The charity should provide one or more ways to reach them off line as well as communicate with them directly online. Look for the charity's contact address, telephone, e-mail address, etc.
- Know How Your Money Will Be Used.
The Internet provides charities with an opportunity to share more of their work with you the donor. You should be able to learn how the charity you contribute to plans to use the money you give to help others and fulfill their mission. If you are not certain how the charity will use your charitable gift, ask!
- Request Regular Information.
Your favorite charity should provide you an opportunity to hear about their work regularly. On their Web site or through e-mail updates the charity should provide information about how they fulfill their stated mission. These updates should be received on a regular basis and should not be tied only to requests for contributions.
If you would like more tips about online giving, try reading 10 tips on giving wisely.