Midwest Energy & Communications' Website Compass

WebsiteCompass 17 Be Careful with Crowdfunding Sites Keep in mind that even legitimate crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe may include fraudulent causes that look believable at first glance. If a friend shared or “liked” the request on social media, contact your friend offline and ask what they know about the post. Do they personally know the person or group soliciting donations? If not, research the campaign organizer. Do they lack an online presence or do the details you find not match what’s said on the crowdfunding campaign page? Be suspicious. It’s also a good idea to do a reverse image search of the photos used on the crowdfunding campaign page as well as the campaign organizer’s social media pages. Scammers often copy and paste stolen photos from other people’s stories. Keep Emotions in Check While it’s natural for charity appeals to generate feelings of sadness, concern, and compassion, you need to think with your head and not just your heart when making donation decisions. One of the best ways to keep emotions in check is to be proactive rather than reactive. Instead of making an on-the-spot donation based on an emotional appeal you receive, plan ahead. Think about how much you can afford to donate each year, choose which causes are most important to you, then do your homework to find efficient and responsible charities working for those causes. (See the sidebar for charity research tips.) Remember, legitimate charities as well as fraudulent ones can use heartbreaking images and share examples of people they’ve helped. Your job is to distinguish between the two. You don’t want your donation to end up in the hands of a scammer or a for-profit fundraiser that skims as much as 90-95% of your donation off the top before the small remaining amount goes to the legitimate charity. Donate by Credit Card The Federal Trade Commission says the safest way to make a charitable donation is by credit card, since they provide a paper trail for an added layer of protection should you need to dispute a charge. Be sure to review your credit card statements closely to make sure you’re only charged the amount you agreed to donate, and you’re not signed up to make a recurring donation you didn’t approve. Don’t use your debit card to donate. It’s directly linked to your bank account and is therefore considered a more vulnerable payment method. Tips on How to Research Charities Before you spend your money on a donation, spend your time on research. That way, you’ll know whether an organization is worthy of your support. A good place to start is by checking watchdog websites like these: Charity Navigator charitynavigator.org Search by charity name or keywords, review 4-Star Charities and Top Ten Lists, and learn other information to help you give with more confidence. Charity Watch charitywatch.org Groups included on the CharityWatch Top-Rated list generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, have met CharityWatch’s governance benchmarks, and receive “open-book” status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to CharityWatch. BBB Wise Giving Alliance give.org The BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability address four themes: Governance, Results Reports, Finances, and Truthful and Transparent Represen- tations. Findings related to these standards are put in each charity’s report. The Federal Trade Commission also recommends you do your own homework online. In the search bar, enter the charity’s name along with terms like “complaints” and “scam” to see if fraudulent reports come up.