Charity begins at home, but should not end there."If the wise and venerable author of this proverb were alive today, he or she would most certainly add in parentheses, "especially if that home has an Internet connection." Thanks to today's technology, charity can be directed from the comfort of one's home to causes anywhere in the world.
Charitable organizations are connecting increasingly with the potential of on-line giving. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, in 1999 the nation's largest charities received $7 million on-line, accounting for 1 percent of total funds raised by those organizations. According to the ePhilanthropy Foundation, that figure rose to $4.53 billion in 2005, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that on-line giving represented 10-15 percent of some nonprofits' total fundraising for 2005.
A host of services provide nonprofits with ways to receive donations through the Internet. Although this variety is a boon, it can also be burden for those who don't know where to get started.
So for April's Question of the Month, we decided to dig deeper and ask Newsletter readers about their organizations' experiences with e-philanthropy.
What Readers Told Us
We first asked, "Has your organization ever received an on-line donation?" More than half (63 percent) of participants responded that their organizations had indeed received on-line donations. As an anonymous reader noted, "On-line giving is becoming more and more popular—especially with the generations coming up. We need to provide our donors with safe, secure, and easy ways to give on-line. Additionally, we need to continue to be very timely in acknowledging them in a very personal and meaningful way. Not just through email."
We then asked participants whose organizations had benefited from e-philanthropy, "From which source(s) have you received on-line donations?" The vast majority (81 percent) reported that their organizations received the contributions through "Donate Now" buttons or similar functionality directly on their Web sites.
Finally, we asked, "Is your organization registered with any on-line charity malls, click-to-donate programs, or similar sites or programs?" Some 63 percent of participants said they were not. The remaining 29 percent mentioned the sites and vendors listed below. Some of these programs make their services available to nonprofits for a fee. Others offer them at no charge to the nonprofits, instead keeping a percentage of each donation.
Where to Start?Here are the sites that readers mentioned. Note: Inclusion in this list does not constitute endorsement by GuideStar, and omission from it merely indicates that readers did not mention a specific company or program. Before engaging an organization to process on-line donations or signing up with a charity mall or donation program, do your due diligence: talk to your peers, send a query to a nonprofit listserv, do some research on the Web, talk with the vendor's references, or check out the organization through your state charity or consumer affairs office.
- Amazon.com–Nonprofits can post wish lists on Amazon, receive referral fees through the Amazon.com Associates Program, and accept on-line contributions through the Amazon Honor System.
- American Express–American Express cardholders can give to charity through the GivingExpressSM Program.
- Benevolink–Consumers earn money for nonprofits registered with Benevolink by purchasing from any of nearly 400 retailers.
- Buy For Charity–Part of the proceeds from sales made through www.buyforcharity.com are directed to charity. Shoppers add the causes they wish to support to the Buy For Charity system.
- Community foundations–Check with your local community foundation to see if donors can give to your organization through the foundation's Web site.
- Convio/GetActive–Convio and GetActive have joined forces and are in the process of merging their offerings. Convio Fundraising allows nonprofits to create customized on-line donation capabilities.
- eScrip–Schools and youth groups can sign up to receive a percentage of the purchases that their supporters make using grocery loyalty cards, credit cards, and debit/ATM cards.
- Firstgiving.com–Firstgiving allows nonprofits and their supporters to set up fundraising pages.
- GlobalGiving–GlobalGiving enables donors to give to causes suggested by Project Sponsors and then vetted further by GlobalGiving.
- GoodSearch.com–GoodSearch is a Yahoo-powered search engine that donates half of its revenues to charities suggested by its users..
- Groundspring.org–See the Network for Good entry below.
- I Do Foundation–Couples about to tie the knot can direct wedding donations to charities ("Recommended Partners") in the I Do Foundation system.
- iGive.com–Shoppers who purchase from nearly 700 on-line stores can direct a portion of the profits to a cause already registered with iGive or add a cause to the iGive system.
- JustGive.org–JustGive.org is an on-line donation portal that allows 501(c)(3) organizations to add a "Donate Now" button linking visitors from the nonprofit's Web site to its donation page on JustGive.org.
- MissionFish–Nonprofits that register with MissionFish can receive donations from eBay sellers, sell their own goods and services on eBay, set up auctions on eBay, and take advantage of eBay's "Toolkit for the Social Sector."
- MyCause.com–Shoppers at more than three dozen Internet retailers can donate a part of their purchase costs to their favorite causes and add causes to MyCause.com.
- Network for Good–Network for Good is an on-line donation portal that enables charities to receive on-line donations using a Network for Good "Donate Now" button or through customizable pages powered by Groundspring.org.
- NYCharities.org–Any charity located in New York State can register to collect donations on-line through NYCharities.org.
Final ThoughtsE-philanthropy can be a cost-effective way for a nonprofit to expand its fundraising efforts. Regulations on on-line donations are being debated throughout the country, however. If your organization receives a large number of or sizable on-line contributions from any one state, you may need to register with that state. Check with your attorney. For information on nonprofits that provide other nonprofits with legal assistance, .
Christopher Trent Kaplan and Suzanne Coffman, May 2007
© 2007, Philanthropic Research, Inc. (GuideStar)
Chris Kaplan is an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary and a communications/marketing intern at GuideStar. Suzanne Coffman is GuideStar's director of communications and editor of the Newsletter.