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Take care with text donations
NEW YORK (2/15/10)--Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake triggered a seismic response in cell phone giving to support aid relief thanks to tweets, social networking sites such as Facebook, and TV specials. Within a week more than $25 million was donated to causes via text messages, and the money is still coming in. The Mobile Giving Foundation, a nonprofit that facilitates texted donations, reported processing 10,000 text messages per second at one point (Smartmoney.com Jan. 22). Within days, text-based fundraising became an established--and successful--form of charitable giving. You simply send a single word message to a designated number and your donation is billed to your monthly phone bill. But no matter how quick and easy it is to give by phone, donors still need to do their due diligence to ensure their donations are going to trustworthy charities. The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance offers these guidelines on giving via text:
* Check the number with the source before you send. For example, visit the American Red Cross website to confirm the “text to” number and word to enter to avoid being scammed by a fraudulent site. * Understand the delay. Text donations can take up to 90 days to reach the designated charity. If you want your donation to be received immediately, go directly to the charity website, call, or send a check. * Read the fine print. When you give by text message, you could be signing yourself up to receive future e-mails from the charity. A reputable charity posts its text campaign details on its website so you know what you’re agreeing to and how to opt out. * Research the charity. Is it best equipped to help and use the money for its intended purpose?
Legitimate charities send a text immediately after your donation that verifies you really want to give a specific amount. When you confirm, the amount appears on your cell phone bill, which can serve as your receipt for tax purposes if the charity name and donation are listed. Websites processing donations are working toward better receipt recordkeeping for donors. In the future, expect to be able to use a PIN code to obtain a separate receipt. For more information, read “Get the most bang for your charitable buck this season” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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