The donation process has come a long way from the traditional cold-calling and pen-and-paper methods of yesteryear. Sites like PayPal, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, and similar crowdfunding platforms have simplified charity organizations to just a few clicks and keystrokes. Consequently, charities are seeing greater increases in donations than ever before. 2018 alone reported a whopping $31 billion in online donations.


However, despite the convenience of online donations, the risk of accidentally donating to a fraudulent charity has largely stayed the same. But instead of printing fake fliers or spoofing phone numbers, fraudulent charities are developing fake donation pages. This risk requires that donors continue to research charities before they donate their money to them just as they did in the past. You can research a charity organization in several ways:


Check how often the charity appears in your favorite search engine’s results.


Charities that have little to no mention on websites other than their own should raise some red flags. While this can sometimes happen to a legitimate charity with a newer website, it can also suggest that the charity is not as active as it claims to be. That lack of activity can be an important indicator of fraud.


Besides Google, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, and other social media networks are another great way to check out what people other than the charity itself are saying about the charity you’re interested in.


Use third-party evaluation and rating sites.


Third-party evaluation sites provide donors with impartial information about charity organizations. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends BBC Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and GuideStar to start.


Use the IRS’ Tax Exempt Organization Search.


Charity organizations that are on this list are more likely to be legitimate than charities that are not. Additionally, contributions to charities on this list can be deducted from your taxes when you itemize your donations.


Beware of solicitations online, over the phone, and through direct mail.


Charity organizations that solicit you by these means of communication often try to rush or pressure you to donate. This kind of behavior is the hallmark of scammers. Legitimate charities give a potential donor ample time to research their organization to decide whether their mission is right for that donor.