Where is my money actually going?
Animal rescue organizations seem to be popping up all over the Internet these days, and pig rescues are not only becoming more popular, they are increasing in numbers as well. As animal and pig lovers, we want to help every horror story we read about, and try to save as many pigs possible—but, sadly, we need to learn to how to avoid scams as well. How does one determine a real rescue situation from a scam?
Research the organization as thoroughly as possible. Check out online review sites, or simply search the name of the organization in a web browser. Some of the facets that comprise a real rescue operation from a scam artist:
- The organization has a dedicated, up-to-date website with information regarding all aspects of its operations. There should be stories, pictures, FAQs, resources, and more that users can navigate to learn more and become involved. In addition, the organization should have links to other areas of online presence, such as social media, and should have a section for press releases, media attention received, and positive/negative reviews received. If the donation solicitations are from an individual, they should mention the organization to which they belong or intend to help—and donations should never be given to an individual!
- The organization is a registered nonprofit, is in process of registering—or is a real business. Did you know that you could easily find business information online? Each state has a revenue and business registration website, and on such sites, you can search by business name and location to determine when the company was founded, if it’s current on its taxes and other business forms, etc. If the organization you wish to donate to is not a real business, chances are your money isn’t going to good use.
- The organization is not using a Go Fund Me account, and brings donations in directly through a website with a secure connection. Any registered business or nonprofit is not actually allowed to have an account through many of the personal funding sites like Go Fund Me per service and usage agreements. If the organization requests funds through PayPal, look at the email address registered for the organization. Is it an individual’s name, or the business name? Is the account offered through a free email service provider, like Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc? Or is it through a private domain specific to the business? While there may be legitimate rescue sites using a free email provider, most reputable organizations will have a private domain.
- Does the organization publicly disclose how it spends its funds? This is crucial! You want maximum transparency from an organization when providing a donation—and if you can’t monitor how your donations are being used, then chances are, they aren’t being used to help animals in need!
- The organization offers incentives for receiving donations. For example, rather than just asking for money, the organization will run fundraisers through auctions, merchandise sales, or raffles—where those who donate either receive merchandise, such as a t-shirt or bumper sticker—or are entered into a drawing to win a physical prize or service, or may bid on a physical prize or service. It’s the concept of “what’s in it for me?” in the donation world. If the organization is soliciting funds, they should be willing to give something back to its donors.
- After completing a donation, you should receive an email or regular post thank you note that is somewhat personalized. If you are donating to help a specific animal or cause, the organization will keep you informed of any changes with the animal or cause.
- Lastly, take a peek at registries for nonprofits and rescues. There are many, many websites and Facebook groups that list such organizations. If you don’t see the organization listed or mentioned anywhere online, it could mean one of two things: the organization is either really young and in its early development stages, or it doesn’t actually exist.
How much do I donate?
This is completely up to you and your budget! An organization will typically have a goal in place when soliciting donations. For example, if a fundraiser is in place, the organization will list what the monetary goal is, or how many of a specific item they need/would like to sell. In addition, there are more ways to donate other than providing money; many organizations are in need of supplies in addition to monetary donations. You can see if an organization uses Amazon Wish List for supplies—or if they have a program in place for dropping off in-kind donations.
If you are donating to a federally exempt nonprofit, you will receive a notice with its nonprofit exemption number and a form or receipt to use for tax deductions.