Donating Through an Online Giving Portal

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When donating through an online giving portal, be sure you know how your money gets to the charity you’re supporting, how much of it gets there, and when. Here’s some guidance on how to do that.

Online giving portals have grown in popularity, letting you choose from a list of charities you can support directly from that platform. Often, you get to them through a crowd-funding or social media site, or through an online retailer or other website. These portals make it quick and easy to donate to the cause you want to support. But, what you might not know is that your donation may not go directly or immediately to the charity you’ve selected.

When you donate through an online giving portal, your money may first go to an organization that accepts the donation and issues your tax receipt. That intermediary organization might keep a service fee. Then, it sends the rest of your donation to the charity you originally designated. It can take 30 days or more for the charity to get your donation.

So how do you know where your money goes, and who gets how much? The best online portals will have this information. It may take you a little bit of research on the website, but you should be able to find this information. Here’s what to look for:

  • Where your money goes. Online giving portals should tell you who gets your donation and how your money gets to the charity or beneficiary you chose.
  • Fees. The online portal should tell you if it keeps part of your donation as a fee before sending the rest to your chosen charity. Consider whether the charity would get more of your donation if you donated to the charity directly.
  • Timing. Online giving portals should say how long it will take for the charity to get your donation.
  • Follow-through. Just in case your donation can’t be sent to the charity you chose, the portal should say what happens in that case — and how often that happens.
  • Your info. Check if you can choose whether or not your information is shared with the charity or anyone else, and whether the portal gives you a choice.

These details should be clear and easy to find without hunting through fine print. If the details are not clear — or if the portal doesn’t give you this information at all — consider taking your donation money elsewhere. There are plenty of other ways to donate. You can always go directly to the website of the charity you want to support. Also, even if a charity is listed on an online giving portal, you should still do a little homework on that charity. For tips on wise giving, check out ftc.gov/charity.

Tell the FTC and your state’s charities regulator if you see an online portal that does not have the details you are expecting.

Tagged with: charity, online

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