Monday, January 5, 2009

Helping Donors Make Wise Choices

Attorneys General across the United States warn donors about making charitable contributions due to the number of scams that have surfaced using the internet. The suggestion that donations are not making it to intended destinations feeds the worries of donors, perhaps making them hold back on contributions.

Would donors still be interested in your cause if they knew that less than half of the money they donated actually made it to the worthy beneficiaries? Helping donors make wise, informed decisions about charitable contributions could come down to putting information at their fingertips. Most people want to be sure that they are giving to a worthy cause and that the money they give is helping. Here are some ideas that might help make the gift-giving experience a success on both sides.

Help donors to make an informed choice. Provide information about how much of the gift givers’ donation will actually go to the charitable cause.

Don’t make high-pressure appeals. Legitimate charities don't rush donors.

Provide written information. Legitimate charities will be willing to send information to donors before a transaction takes place. Provide information on your organization's mission and on how your donation will be used along with proof that the contribution is tax deductible.

Have a call in line. Make sure that your charity can be reached by phone. This will allow a donor to make sure that you are legitimate.

Make sure credit card payments provide security. Credit card payments make funds available more quickly. Using a secure site like PayPal can make the user experience easier and secure.

Provide appropriate tax information. Make sure to provide tax deductible information for federal and state income taxes. Donating to some tax-exempt organizations may not necessarily result in a tax-deductible donation and some organizations may even try to use terms like "tax I.D. number" or "keep this receipt for your records" to suggest they are tax-exempt charities when they aren't. For record keeping, a canceled check or credit card statement generally is sufficient for IRS purposes when you donate less than $250. For larger donations, you will want to provide properly worded receipts from your charity confirming the donation.

Provide alternative forms of giving. Provide alternative forms of giving such as charitable gift annuities, gifts in-kind, and endowments.

Make it easy to volunteer. Giving of time and personal skills can be a valuable to nonprofit organizations. Get organized and make it easy for someone to give their time.

What has worked for you? Give us your ideas.