Advancing the nonprofit marketing & charitable fundraising community since 1982

Safeguards for the season of giving

The ANA offers guidelines on ensuring charitable donations are secure

As the holiday season approaches, and in the spirit of Giving Tuesday (December 3), the ANA Nonprofit Federation is offering guidelines to help donors ensure that their gifts will be used properly.

Legitimate charitable organizations provide detailed information upon request and a point of contact for questions, and anyone electing to donate to charitable causes should be sure to choose accountable nonprofit groups. Here are nine steps donors can follow if they have questions about a specific charity:

  1. Find out how gifts will be used: Most organizations have financial information and annual reports on their websites so donors can see how their gifts will be used. A legitimate charity should provide either its annual report or IRS Form 990 upon request. However, many religious organizations are not required to file Form 990, so contributors should ask them what financial information is currently available.
  2. Donate by check or credit card: Legitimate organizations will always accept checks or credit cards. Donors should be cautious when donating cash to organizations that are unfamiliar to them. If they are not legitimate, it will be difficult to track them down once they receive cash donations.
  3. Protect personal data: All legitimate charitable organizations should have a clear privacy policy for the use of any personal information they collect. The privacy policy usually is located on the organization’s website or mobile app. Legitimate charities never request sensitive personal information such as Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name, or PINs.
  4. Beware of high-pressure tactics: Authentic organizations are professional and courteous when asking for support. They understand that respectful communication is the correct approach to fundraising.
  5. If contacted by telephone, ask about the caller’s relationship to the organization: Fundraising by phone is a longstanding and valid practice. Legitimate charities use the services of professional fundraisers, volunteers, and staff. In all instances, a donor should expect callers to explain who they are and why they are calling. Ask for the caller’s contact information if there is cause for concern.
  6. Be careful of email “spoofing” and “phishing:” When donating online, be careful of “spoofing,” a scam that can trick potential donors. Avoid clicking on a link from an e-mail that appears to be from a familiar organization, even though the e-mail may have the logo and the correct “sent from” source. The site link may look genuine, but it is from an imposter who has copied the site’s information. Instead of clicking on the link, go directly to the organization’s website to learn how to donate online. “Phishing” occurs when donors receive an unfamiliar email or text asking them to click a link or provide a password, bank account, or other sensitive information. Once the link is clicked, it can spread a computer virus and use passwords to access accounts. Legitimate charities do not seek account information or send unfamiliar links.
  7. Secure online donations: When donating online, make sure to enter personal information only on sites that are secured. Secured sites will have the “lock” icon in the viewer’s browser.
  8. Review state reporting sources: State officials monitor charitable activity, and most states require charitable organizations that publicly solicit funds to register, usually with either the Attorney General or the Secretary of State. The respective office in each state can identify registered organizations, although each state allows registration exemptions for religious organizations and some other types. Donors should report any suspicious activity to state authorities immediately. Contact information for statewide offices is available at www.nasconet.org, the website for The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO).
  9. Seek Accountability: Legitimate groups will provide detailed information on the impact of the donor’s gift upon request. If donors are not satisfied with the response, they should send their donation to a different charity with accountability.

From the ANA website.

Not a member? Register