Crowdfunding is emerging as a powerful way for people to help each other. When an online fundraiser inspires you to make a donation, what steps should you take to ensure you’re funding an authentic cause? With our guide below, you can donate with confidence and rest assured that you are making a real difference in someone’s life.
The Anatomy of an Authentic Fundraiser
Verifying the legitimacy of a fundraiser is all in the details. An authentic fundraiser is typically rife with details — and the right ones. Here’s what to look for:
1. Clear and Complete Information
The fundraiser page should be transparent about what the cause is, what the fundraiser hopes to accomplish, how the money raised will be used, and what the relationship is between the beneficiary and the organizer. At the very minimum, the fundraiser should include:
- Complete basics: The who, what, where and when should stand out to you right away on the fundraiser page. Are the first and last names of the organizer(s) and beneficiaries present? Is the location of the beneficiary included? (Please note: if the location field is blank, it could be that the campaign started before location became a required field in our Create Your Fundraiser process.) Does the fundraiser explain when the need for help became apparent?
- Clear goals: Is the fundraiser specific about how the money raised will be used? Does it provide a breakdown of the types of costs the fundraiser will cover? For large goals, compare if the cost breakdown accurately adds up to the total amount being sought.
- Logical explanations: Does the “why” of the story ring true and share details that are unique to the beneficiary, or does it seem vague as if it’s unconnected to the cause? Is the relationship of the organizer to the beneficiary plainly stated? The fundraiser details should present a candid and logical description of the beneficiary’s situation.
2. Photo Quality and Quantity
Photos are great ways for fundraisers to paint a rich and full picture for donors. They should increase your understanding about a beneficiary’s situation:
- Look to see if the photos show details that the fundraiser description mentions, such as places and relationships. It’s hard to stage photos in a range of times and locations.
- When you see many photos, you should expect them to show the beneficiary during various moments of life and in relationships with loved ones.
- Photo quality should also factor into your assessment of the validity of a fundraiser. If the photos look like stock photography, ads or perhaps copied photos from other sources, be cautious about ascertaining the credibility of the cause.
3. Donation and Sharing Volume
A high volume of online donations can serve as validation of a great crowdfunding cause. Shares on social media are another important form of support; they indicate how many people have decided a cause is worth promoting to their social networks.
Here’s where to look for measures of validation on the fundraiser page:
- Supporters tab: Check out a list of contributions that individuals have made by donating safely online. An extensive list of online donations in various amounts, combined with messages of support in which donors identify themselves as friends and family of the beneficiary, is a great sign of an authentic fundraiser.
- “Shares” count: See how many people shared a link to the fundraiser on social media. The more shares, the more eyeballs have viewed — and scrutinized — a fundraiser.
- Updates tab: See if the organizer is continuing to share information, such as news about the beneficiary or progress toward the fundraising goal.
(Keep in mind that these indicators can be absent from a trustworthy fundraiser due to newness or lack of momentum.)
Final Tips for Verifying Fundraisers to Support
You’ve reviewed all the details on the fundraiser, but still have a few lingering questions. What next?
- Contact the organizer. Reach out to get your questions answered via the “Contact the Organizer” button on the fundraiser page.
- Assess social media activity. Search online for news articles or related content, such as support pages and social networking posts. Check that people with associated Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts exist, and that they share fundraiser information along with other topics. Steer clear of any causes connected to spam-like social media content or behavior (such as strictly asking for money).
- To confirm an organization’s nonprofit status or for help deciding which charity to support, it’s simple to look up reports, ratings and evaluations of a charity cause via websites such as GuideStar, Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.
- If you find a YouCaring fundraiser that you suspect may be misrepresenting information, email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the URL of the fundraiser in question. We will investigate it immediately!
Keep in mind that sometimes authentic fundraisers are created in a hurry — especially in cases when someone is in the midst of a crisis — and some information may simply be lacking as an oversight. It’s really the combination of several possible red flags with a fundraiser that merits caution.
You can make online donations with confidence now that you know what to look for in verifying a fundraiser’s authenticity.