What Should I Know Before Donating Online? | Attorney General - State of Colorado

What Should I Know Before Donating Online?

Donate Key On Keyboard

With more and more access to the internet, the advent of social media, the explosion of crowd funding internet sites, and the ability to easily donate to a cause by simply by clicking a button or sending a basic text message, it has become even easier than ever to donate to charitable organizations and specific causes.

Before donating, consumers should take the extra steps to thoroughly research any organization they are considering well in advance of providing donations.  If not, the donations may not be finding the right pockets.

Tips For Online Donating:

  • If you receive an email or text message asking for a donation, confirm that the request is from the charity, and not an imposter, by contacting the charity or visiting its website.
  • Check out the charity before you give to learn more about it through reputable sites such as the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, IRS Select Check, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, or Charity Navigator.

  • Be cautious of “look-alike” websites. These fraudulent websites will often ask for personal financial information or may download harmful malware into your computer.
  • Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes these sound-alike names are simply intended to confuse donors.
  • Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs, or other social media have already been vetted. Research the charity yourself.
  • Find out what percentage of your donation will go to the charity and whether you will be charged any fees for making a donation through the fundraising platform website.
  • Find out what the website will do (if anything) with your personal information; be wary of websites that do not provide a privacy policy.
  • Be cautious when considering giving to newly formed charities since they won’t have a track record that you can take into consideration.
  • Be extra vigilant when donating online in the wake of natural disasters or national tragedies.
  • Some charities are formed shortly thereafter and may have the best of intentions; however, an existing charity is more likely to have the sound management and experience to quickly respond to these situations, and it will have a track record which you can review.
  • Don't be swayed by strong emotional appeals -- take some time to examine the charity's claims and to consider alternatives.
  • Don't be pressured to make an immediate decision – Be suspicious if the solicitor insists upon an immediate donation or offers to send a courier to pick up your contribution. Take time to check any charity before giving.
  • If a solicitor calls you: Ask for their registration number and the registration number of the charity they are representing. This will help you investigate the charity with the Secretary of State.
  • Ask every solicitor: "How much of my donation will actually go to the charitable organization?" If you think the amount is too low, tell them "No thank you."
  • Ask every solicitor and charity: "Is my contribution tax deductible?" Charities must indicate their tax-exempt status in their registration statements. Tax exempt does not necessarily mean that contributions are tax deductible.

For Information regarding this article and additional resources please visit the National Association of State Charity Officials.  If you believe you have been victimized by a charity scam or if you wish to report suspicious activity, please file a report here.   

Other Links

Donating because of a disaster? 

Want to Learn More?

  • Visit the Fraud Center for additional information on ways to protect yourself. 

Victim of Fraud?

Sign Up For Fraud Alerts

Register here for the Consumer Fraud Bulletin to receive fraud alerts and tips to keep you safe.