How to find out if a fundraiser or nonprofit is legitimate
As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to gain momentum around the globe, many people have stepped up to donate to nonprofits and bail funds to fuel the fight for racial equality and ending police brutality. But as new fundraising links emerge online, it's sometimes hard to tell which ones are legitimate.
Do your research beforehand
Before donating to any nonprofit or fundraiser, be sure to do your research to make sure the organization you're sending your money to isn't a fraud:
- Use sites like GuideStar, Navigator, and Charity Watch to see an organization's rating and how it uses its money. Usually, if a charity is spending at least 75% of its total expenses on programs, then it's spending its money wisely. One red flag, in particular, to look out for is if a nonprofit is spending most of its money on staff salaries.
- Always go directly to the official website instead of following a link on social media. Verify that there is an official phone number and address. Many reputable nonprofits will have a seal of approval on their website from charity evaluation companies like GuideStar.
- Some new nonprofits might not have super detailed websites. Try calling or sending an email to inquire about details to see how long they take to respond. You should ask the nonprofit about its mission, programs, and how donations are allocated.
- Review the organization's mission statement, the board of directors, staff, the governing body, corporate sponsors, and foundation partners. Knowing who is behind the fundraiser or nonprofit can help you assess a company's true values.
- Read the reviews that donors leave on social media, the fundraiser page, or on sites like Better Business Bureau.
- Double-check a site's URL to prevent identity theft. Look out for an HTTPS padlock, which appears in front of the URL, and indicates that it's a secure website. Be wary of URL changes as well, like .net instead of .org.
- Don't ever provide your social security number or pay by wire transfer.
Want a refund?
Did you donate to an organization that seems legitimate, but you later realized that something about its operations doesn't sit well with you? You can first start by asking for your money back. While it isn't the norm, some organizations do offer refunds that are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Simply share why you'd like a refund.
However, if an organization seems dubious, you probably won't get very far asking for a refund. Luckily, there are some steps you can take. If you donated through GoFundMe, you could flag the suspicious activity to the website so it can take appropriate action. You can also report a fraudulent organization to the Better Business Bureau, your state government, the Federal Trade Commission, and your bank. What's more, you can consider taking the case to small claims court.
Remember to take your time and don't rush before donating.