'Tis the season for giving, and thanks to the Internet, you can give all you want without leaving your house. Online giving accounts for nearly a third of all the donations given to charities like the American Lung Association, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, but it only accounts for roughly 2 percent of overall charitable giving. If you want to take a break from online shopping and join the small but hardy band of givers who click their way to charity, make sure you tread carefully.
Just as the person at the door may be pocketing your donation, or the charity you write a check to every month may spend too much on administrative costs, an online charity isn't necessarily blemish free. Maximize your online giving this year while also protecting your financial bottom line.
Grow your Own Charity
If you're tired about worrying where every dime you donate goes, start your own charity. Launching your own charity is often a long and arduous process, but it can be done with sufficient time, money, more than a few helping hands and approval by the IRS. Whether you want to generate funds for a healthier school lunch program at your local school or collect money to bring Thanksgiving dinners to people in your community, you can collect money and run the program yourself. Online crowdfunding platforms like Razoo.com take you through the entire process and teach you how to garner support and gather cash for your cause. However, without the involvement of a nonprofit, crowdfunded charity organizations must inform prospective donors their donations won't be tax deductible.
Make Shopping Charitable
Many companies including Amazon and Target will give to the charity of your choice based on how much you shop on their sites. Amazon's latest charitable program called AmazonSmile allows shoppers to pick their own charities — there are hundreds from which you can choose. As you shop, Amazon donates .5 percent of every purchase you make to your charity. Target doubles that donation amount in their Take Charge of Education Program. When you use your Red Card to buy items on Target.com, the company will send 1 percent of your purchase price to the school of your choice. By getting involved with a program like this, you can effortlessly give as you shop, and your efforts last all year long, not just at the holidays.
Keep It Safe
Unfortunately, there are always scammers who will try to take advantage of your good will, and because of this, it is critical to have a disaster recovery plan in place before you start giving online: Lifelock's Youtube channel has tips on how to set one up to make sure you're protected. The American Institute of Philanthropy has also developed a list of tips to make online giving safe. If you don't know much about the charity you are giving to, do some research. You can check their tax exempt status at the IRS website, and look over their track record of responsible giving on the website for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Before typing in your credit card details and hitting donate, Charity Watch recommends making sure that you have a secure connection. A secure URL begins with https rather than just http, and if you don't see the "s" for secure, you may want to call the charity and do your donating over the phone or in person.Guest post by Gladys Robinson - Gladys is the ultimate party planner when it comes to charity benefits. She organizes functions for several local philanthropies.