Best Practices for Charities and Individual Donors

By Cody Lents, Partner and Change Manager at COVI, Inc.

Since it was first founded in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become known as a charitable movement built around a simple idea: Set aside a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past seven years, #Giving Tuesday has transformed into a global day of unity that has inspired hundreds of millions of individuals to give, collaborate and celebrate generosity in their communities.

GivingTuesday’s data reported $1.97 million was raised for reputable charities around the globe in 2019. But could the number have been even higher? A few months prior, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) kicked off “International Charity Fraud Awareness Week,” a coordinated effort to help charities and donors avoid a growing number of scam groups masquerading as charitable organizations. Using tax deduction as bait, fake charities have often lured unsuspecting victims into making ineligible donations.

With the next #GivingTuesday quickly approaching on Dec. 1, 2020, what can you do to ensure your donation ends up in the right hands this holiday season? And, as a charity, how can you ensure prospective donors feel comfortable about allocating funds to your cause?

Best Practices for Individual Donors

  1. Give to established, trusted organizations.
    The easiest way to immediately confirm the legitimacy of a charitable organization is through the IRS’ “Tax Exempt Organization Search”, which allows donors to search for qualified charities in which donations may be tax-deductible. Legitimate charities will provide their Employee Identification Number (EIN) upon request.
  2. Use credit cards or checks.
    If a charity is attempting to solicit a donation through cash, gift cards, virtual currency, or wire transfer, it is most likely a scam. For security and tax record purposes, it is safest to contribute by check or credit card.
  3. Be skeptical of copycats and disaster relief.
    Exercise caution when examining charities with names that are similar to nationally known organizations. Scammers may use names, domains, etc. that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.

Following natural disasters, it’s common for scammers to impersonate charities to solicit personal financial information from victims and those looking to donate–don’t give out personal financial information, such as Social Security numbers or passwords to anyone who solicits a contribution.

Still unsure? Run the organization’s name through Charity Watch or Charity Navigator to browse reviews, ratings and reports from other donors.

Best Practices for Charities & Nonprofits

  1. Educate your donors.
    Whether on your website, social media or mailings, share information that instills confidence in those who want to contribute to your cause. Use the above best practices for individual donors as a guide.
  2. Implement a payment processor on your site.
    This allows your organization’s website to accept all online payments directly through the website, as opposed to sending donors off-site to a third-party platform. When your donor enters their payment information on your site, their card information is sent through a payment gateway to be validated. If the card’s information is legitimate, the transaction will be processed by your payment provider.

This process provides donors a more streamlined and credible experience and keeps them on your website for longer. Here is a comparison of eight trusted payment processors.

If you need assistance vetting a charity or setting up a payment strategy for your nonprofit/charitable organization, you can reach out to COVI at for help. COVI is an Information Technology (IT) service provider specializing in productivity, security, support and strategy services, located in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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