We need to do charity better

By Lee Fentress

June 1, 2015

Lee Fentress is the Co-Founder and COO of Santa Monica based charitable giving platform, Pledgeling

Imagine donating your hard-earned dollars to a charitable cause about which you care deeply, only to find out that the money was used to enrich a few scam artists.

This is precisely what happened to donors across America who believed they were supporting cancer research. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission announced a joint suit filed against four cancer charities in the US, claiming that they, “operated as personal fiefdoms characterized by rampant nepotism, flagrant conflicts of interest, and excessive insider compensation” to the tune of $187 million. In short, the leadership of the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society raised tens of millions of dollars and spent the proceeds almost entirely on themselves. This news is devastating to cancer research, and it reminds us that we must have greater accountability when it comes to charitable giving in this country.

A few bad actors should never dissuade someone from supporting the overwhelming majority of charities that do tremendous good. But in order to give donors that peace of mind, they must know where there money is going, what it’s being used for, and who’s responsible for managing it. Until recently, charitable giving has not been addressed with the donor in mind, making the process difficult and time-consuming.

We created a free application called Pledgeling to make charitable giving simpler, easier, and more secure. We give donors one destination to do all of their giving, and we make sure that every organization is an IRS approved 501c3 entity that’s been vetted by our strict guidelines.

No matter how you choose to give, however, we encourage everyone to follow these simple tips in order to ensure that your donations are as secure as possible:

· Do your research:

We work with both Guidestar and Charity Navigator before we allow any charity on our site. These sites provide financials, leadership, and an overall rating that help inform a potential donor about a charity. Both of these businesses create greater transparency in the charitable giving area, and in the end, benefit the charities themselves.

· Centralize your donating:

Pledgeling was founded on the logical premise that people should be doing their donating in one place. It’s safe, free to use (for both the donor and the charity), and social (so you can see what your charities your friends like). Most importantly, you can have a real-time dashboard of all of your giving, which can be printed for the person who prepares your taxes at the end of the year. Centralization will save you time and give you peace of mind.

· Use Technology:

Lots of scams are run through door-to-door solicitations and telemarketing programs. Those “in the moment” types of donations are hard for some people to say “no” to and nearly impossible to vet — that’s why scammers take advantage of them. By using Pledgeling, you’ll know that your donations are going to an IRS approved charity that the team has approved.

·Get involved:

Money is certainly important to charity, but so is your time and your endorsement. If you love a charity, then volunteer or endorse them on social media. That social endorsement has value.

By embracing technology like Pledgeling to address the many issues surrounding charitable giving, we can all do our part to hold charities more accountable. The end result will mean more of your money will end up to those who need it most, which is ultimately what philanthropy is all about.

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