Fundraising websites have made it possible for more people to reach their goals, whatever they may be. But this relatively new technology that’s spreading like wildfire on the internet has sparked a lot of questions, boiling down to two big concerns: safety and legitimacy.
So we’ve used some of your FAQs to create this quick guide on how to safely use fundraising websites. Get up to speed on what they do and what you need to know to effectively and securely raise money online.
Let’s start with some background.
1. How do fundraising websites work?
The concept of online fundraising is easy enough: You take traditional fundraising techniques, add modern technology and circulate it through your social networks to raise money.
The technical part: Fundraising sites provide the platform for users to create a fundraising page. You can share this page with your friends and family through email and social media, and they can share it with their circles, and so on. Some fundraisers go viral through this simple process of sharing alone.
Quick facts: In general, sites will have the user set a fundraising goal and deadline. Some sites will only award the user the amount he or she raised if the full amount is reached by deadline. Others, like GiveForward, will give the user whatever money he or she has raised by the chosen date regardless of goal completion. Most sites will charge a 5-10 percent fee.
The best sites will allow you to personalize your profile: You can add pictures, edit the description of your fundraiser and even post updates or allow donors to post comments on the page.
2. Why do people use fundraising websites?
Fundraising sites have helped people achieve many goals and support many causes. To give you an idea, here are just some of the categories people use fundraising websites for:
- Creative Projects
- Disaster Relief
- Medical Expenses
- Social Justice Campaigns
- Mission Trips
3. What’s the deal with those service fees?
Like we mentioned, most fundraising sites will charge 5-10 percent in processing and service fees to cover credit card processing and running their businesses.
Comparing multiple sites’ fees before starting your fundraiser will help you determine which one is right for you – these can generally be found in the FAQs or “How It Works” section of the website. Ours are right here!
4. Are fundraising websites safe?
Okay, so now we get to the nitty gritty. If you’re careful and you do your research before committing to a fundraising site, you should have a safe and satisfying experience.
Some sites have safeguards to ensure money gets to where it needs to go and your privacy is respected. To speak from our own experience, here are some of the policies GiveForward has to make our fundraisers as secure as possible:
- Because we primarily focus on medical fundraising, we want to make sure the money raised on our fundraisers goes to the proper beneficiary – so we won’t write a check to anyone but the person listed as the beneficiary on the fundraiser. That way donors know exactly who their donation is helping.
- Some users are more private than others and we respect that, so we offer the option of making every fundraiser private – meaning it won’t show up on a Google search. You are in control of who sees your fundraiser.
- We use sophisticated encryption technology to make sure your financial information will not be made available to anyone but us. A way to check this on any site is to make sure the url begins with “https” before entering any of your financial information.
Look for safeguards like these to make sure the fundraising website you choose is looking out for you.
5. How can you tell if a site is legitimate?
Sadly, even with good-intentioned projects like fundraisers, there are still some scammers out there that want to take advantage of the amount of money circulating through these sites. Luckily, there are a few boxes you can check to make sure the site you’re on is legitimate and safe.
- Does the website have a mailing address? Having an office listed on the website can confirm if real people work for the site. Look for it on the bottom header of the website or on the about us page.
- Is the site a BBB-accredited business? If the Better Business Bureau has accredited a business, it means it can be trusted to make an effort to resolve any consumer complaints. Search for the fundraising site on the BBB’s business search service.
- What other sites does the organization work with? Being able to connect PayPal, Amazon, or other major websites are good indicators that the website is valid.
- What fees are associated with the fundraising site? We mentioned fees earlier and how they can help improve user experience. But charging a fee just to set up a page (even as little as $15), regardless of whether you raise any money, is a sign of fraud.
- Can you reach the company by phone, email or chat? Before you start an online fundraiser, see if you can send an email or call the fundraising organization. The best sites will have customer service representatives available.
If a fundraising website is missing most of the items above, it might be wise to seek alternatives.
What it all means
If you only remember one thing from this article, remember this: Doing your research before committing to a fundraising site will save you a lot of headaches. Make sure the site is legitimate, that its fees are fair, and that real people who have your best interest in mind work for it. Your peace of mind is worth the time.
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