Click Here, Save the World

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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 (

lists over

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,, 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 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 ( 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

( provides detailed reports on 400

nonprofits for

$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:

Obtain the financial records of a charity, such as copy

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.

Seek proof that a nonprofit is meeting its objectives.

When reading an organization’s materials, look for evidence that the

mission statement is being fulfilled.

Seek an organization that spends money on programs. The

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.

Be wary of sentiment without substance. Nonprofits that

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.

Finally, once you’ve chosen a charity, don’t give cash. Write

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.

Top Of Page
Click Here, Save the World

It’s a small click for mankind, but a big bang for the

fundraising community.

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.

Register the charity in your state or municipality as


Review your service provider’s online material and some

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.

Obtain a merchant services account from a bank or third

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.

Make a webpage that allows people to make a pledge, not

just a financial donation. Some people are still uncomfortable with

giving their financial information online. You can bill people by

regular postal mail.

Make certain advertisements appeal to your community.

"Click-thru" sponsors should be relevant.

Finally, if you do use corporate sponsors, change the


frequently that people are seeing new ads.

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