Corrections or additions?
These articles by Melinda Sherwood were published in U.S. 1
Newspaper on December 22,
1999. All rights reserved.
Donating to a Charity
After you have checked each family, friend, and
off the holiday gift list, it may then be time to pick a charity.
Last year individuals gave $135 billion to charities, almost 10
more than the year before. You don’t even need your check book
The Internet is making it easier to find the right charity.
Just sit down at the computer with your credit card number and pick
among the more than 600,000 organizations considered nonprofit
under 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Philanthropic Research Inc’s GuideStar (http://www.guidestar.com)
620,000 nonprofit organizations on its site, with links to websites
and other information. Just punch in the kind of organization you’re
seeking. In New Jersey alone, this site was able to dredge up 71
that work to better the environment.
For the philanthropic junkie, http://www.Helping.org, a collaborative
between AOL and GuideStar, is one of the more interesting sites. It
has timely articles and ways to give, so that it is possible to donate
funds to help the families of the firefighters recently killed in
Massachusetts. You can donate directly online.
Since there are numerous charities, foundations, and nonprofits, not
all are legitimate, and those that are may not be using your dollar
quite the way you like it. To make sure that the organization you’re
interested in giving to has tax exempt status, visit the IRS website
http://www.irs.ustreas.gov. The IRS has produced an electronic version
of IRS Publication 78, the cumulative list of nonprofit organization
holding tax-exempt status, and are eligible to receive deductible
One of the ways to make sure your donation is well spent is to look
into the financial records of an organization. A new law actually
requires that nonprofits 501(c)(3) organizations make tax returns
available to the public, but the Better Business Bureau’s
Philanthropic Advisory Service (http://www.bbb.org) also has a
financial breakdown of 200 major nonprofits, from the American Red
Cross to the American Cancer Society. You can find out an
organization’s mission, research effort, community services, and even
compensation of chief officers, and staff. Materials include the
method of fundraising used, a break down of sources of funding, and a
pie chart that shows how that funding
is allocated. Likewise, the National Charities Information Bureau
(http://www.give.org) provides detailed reports on 400
$9.95. For information call 212-929-6300.
Both the Better Business Bureau and National Charities Information
Bureau have developed standards that are a useful guide for
who want to contribute to charities. Some tips for givers:
of the tax Form 990. Keep in mind that churches or nonprofits with
less than $25,000 in revenues are not required to file these reports.
When reading an organization’s materials, look for evidence that the
mission statement is being fulfilled.
sign of a healthy nonprofit, says the NCIB, is that at least 60
of an organization’s annual expenses go to program activities. The
American Cancer Society, for example, in 1998, spent 77 percent of
its budget on program services. The key is to avoid nonprofits drained
by administrative expenses. However, if an organization is new, there
may be higher level of fundraising and administrative costs. Be
in picking your charity.
make high pressure phone calls or won’t send written material are
dubious. Also, don’t let someone pick-up your contribution. Insist
on using the mail.
a check made payable only to the full name of the charity, and don’t
respond to letters that say you have pledged money unless you are
certain that you did. Remember that in most cases donations to
located in foreign countries are not tax deductible for U.S. federal
income tax purposes.
It’s a small click for mankind, but a big bang for the
The "click-thru" fundraising tactic, best illustrated by the
United Nation’s Hunger Site, could be the greatest advancement in
fundraising this century. "With just a click of your mouse, you
can feed a starving person at no cost to yourself," the United
Nation’s E-mail reads.
The brainchild of Indiana programmer John Breen, the United Nation’s
Hunger Site proves that it’s possible to engage corporate money and
individual philanthropy simultaneously. In the case of the Hunger
site, corporations contribute a half-cent for each click in exchange
for showing each person who "clicks-thru" the sponsor’s banner
or homepage. Individuals need only tolerate a momentary commercial
message for a win-win situation.
"Click-thru" advertising may not replace TV commercials with
ex-Soap stars or Hollywood luminaries, but so far, it’s looking like
a success. The United Nation’s Hunger site has seen
grow from 172,739 to 4,823,556 over four months. On November 2, seven
corporate sponsors responded to 234,371 clicks to the Hunger Site
by contributing $16,740.79 each. The result, according to the UN:
410,149 cups of food for the hungry.
Although fundraising online is increasingly popular, there are ethical
and technical considerations to launching a campaign for a charity
online. With banner advertising and "click-thru" advertising,
organizations do risk alienating potential donors by pushing
messages. Also there can be legal restrictions to raising money on
the Internet. Establishing a website that can process credit card
transactions automatically can be complicated and expensive, and you
should be wary of how much control your ISP has in the fundraising
The Internet Nonprofit Center, a project of the Evergreen State
of Seattle, suggests fundraisers consider the following before
their online campaign.
websites for charities that they service. Find out if the appeal for
donations comes directly from the charity or from the service provider
for the charity.
party service provider. You want to avoid "factoring" schemes,
where your service provider offers to process your credit card
using its own merchant accounts. This puts you at risk from being
denied future credit card services.
just a financial donation. Some people are still uncomfortable with
giving their financial information online. You can bill people by
regular postal mail.
"Click-thru" sponsors should be relevant.
frequently that people are seeing new ads.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
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