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When you donate, you want to be sure that your money is going to be used to its fullest potential for good. Unfortunately, untrustworthy individuals and organizations necessitate scrutiny of fundraising practices. When you are invited to donate to a new organization, you may find yourself hesitating to open your wallet because of the fundraising practices in play. This hesitation is natural and can be beneficial, but you should not let it stop you from giving money to the causes you care about.
Here, we answer questions about two fundraising practices that can raise red flags for donors on the lookout for scams: (1) charities listing multiple addresses and (2) matching campaigns. Organizations may have valid reasons for both tactics; understanding why these practices exist and how to investigate their legitimacy can help donors give with confidence.
Why Do Some Charities Have Two Addresses?
You may have noticed that some charities have more than one address, either listed on their Charity Navigator rating page, the charity’s own website, or on a piece of mail or email that the charity sends to you.
This has raised some questions and even made some of our users suspicious of these charities. But, there is a simple reason that charities have two addresses.
When a charity uses an alternate mailing address for donations, it typically means that the charity is asking you to send your check to a secure post office box to be processed outside of their headquarters. The amount of external processing that is done depends on the charity and what donation processing services they have acquired. This can range from simple check depositing to full-service processing, receipting, and associated data entry.
Using a service to process checks and other donation-related information ensures charities can securely receive donations and it frees up the organization’s staff to focus on other mission-critical tasks.
How can I be sure it is safe to send money to an organization listing multiple addresses?
This practice is common and legitimate. However, if you still have concerns, we recommend reaching out to the charities you support when you feel like something they are doing raises a question in your mind.
What is a matching campaign?
A matching campaign is one where a donor (which can be an individual, group, or foundation) has pledged to give a significant financial contribution to the charity to “match” all donations from other supporters within a certain timeframe, up to their pledged amount. We'll refer to the donor who is matching the gifts as the grantor moving forward.
Won’t the charity receive the amount regardless of what is raised in the match campaign?
Typically, the grantor will want to make a substantial financial contribution to a charity, but some grantors may only be interested in funding a match campaign. Per the pledge agreement, which is a legally binding document between the charity and the grantor, the grantor agrees to match up to a certain amount of money before a deadline.
Should I donate to matching campaigns or wait for another time?
These campaigns are very powerful tools in the nonprofit sector. You can equate them to a "buy one get one free sale" in the for-profit world. If you want to increase the impact of your donation, contributing to a match campaign can be a great way to do that without increasing your donation amount.
The choice to donate is ultimately up to you. You should always give when you feel most comfortable and most inspired.
What would be a reasonable question to ask a charity in order to validate their match campaign?
If I wanted to find out more about a match campaign a charity is running, here are some questions that I’d ask:
What is the match goal amount?
What date will the fundraiser end?
Did you receive a pledge agreement from the grantor?
What is the progress of the campaign towards the goal?
What do you plan on doing with the funds received after the match deadline or limit?
Why do you say that you’re matching 10x (or 2x,3x,4x) my donation amount? How does that work?
To avoid scams and build confidence in legitimate organizations, wary donors should educate themselves about fundraising practices and ask relevant questions to ensure that their gifts go to the important work our world needs.