Ways to Donate Anonymously and maintain privacy

Ask Allie: Ways to Donate Anonymously

Lifestyle

Ways to Donate Anonymously and maintain privacy

“I am intensely private and don't want organizations to capture any information about me. I currently give locally in ways I feel safe and confident my money/gifts will be used appropriately. Due to recent events I am interested in giving to organizations that empower women. It seems, however, that there is some controversy surrounding practices by the National Organization for Women. My friend donated to Emily's List and was soon inundated by requests from women politicians around the country. Do you have an idea about a good women's organization? Do you think sending a cashier's check is a viable approach to stay private?”

Thank you for looking for ways to empower your fellow woman! No matter who you voted for in this election, most likely if you’re reading this blog you are a woman. And even if you may feel secure at this time, not all women in this country have the support, the resources, and the protection they need.  And those resources will likely be even more diminished in the coming years.  Whether it’s to prevent solicitors, to maintain your identity, or even to keep your contributions hidden from your family or community, you have the right to maintain your privacy when supporting organizations.

Ways to Donate Anonymously

Consult Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator rates charities based on financial performance, accountability and transparency, but also whether they have a donor privacy policy.

For example, I looked up RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization) and they receive a 90/100 for financial and 81/100 for transparency. Scrolling down on the page, I see they have a check which means they do have a donor privacy policy. A check means this charity has a written donor privacy policy published on its website, which states unambiguously that (1) it will not share or sell a donor's personal information with anyone else, nor send donor mailings on behalf of other organizations or (2) it will only share or sell personal information once the donor has given the charity specific permission to do so. Charity Navigator will also inform you if a charity has an opt-out or flat out doesn’t have a privacy policy.

Donate Through Network for Good

Network for Good is a charity that is a clearinghouse for other charities. You can donate anonymously to any charity associated with Network for Good and receive a receipt for taxes that only says you donated to Network for Good. Use their search tool to find charities by keyword, state, or area of interest. You can create an account to track your charities but won’t receive emails and calls from them after donating.

Sign Up for a Business PayPal Account

You don’t need to prove you have a business for a free business PayPal account. In fact, one of the options when setting up a business PayPal account is to say you are an individual. While you do have to provide legitimate information to PayPal such as your name and social security number, when you donate to organizations that accept PayPal, the donation will come in the name of the business not you personally.

I recommend making a business name that is not easy to associate with you and create an email address associated with it that coordinates and also doesn’t tie back to you. I have multiple Gmail email addresses for situations like this, you can choose to log out and log back in with the new account or set it up to forward to your primary account. This also helps you know which organizations may be selling your information as you will see the spam come to that new address.

Create a Donor Advised Fund

When I received your email I immediately went to a few different Facebook groups that were built just before and after the election to galvanize people. I asked them your question and one member told me about Donor Advised Funds (DAFs). With a DAF, a donating individual or organization opens an account in the fund and deposits cash, securities, or other financial instruments. They surrender ownership of anything they put in the fund, but retain advisory privileges over how their account is invested, and how it distributes money to charities. Usually a DAF requires a minimum of $5,000 but some can be opened with as little as $50 to start. If you google Donor Assisted Fund you will find several reputable financial organizations who offer these. However, if you don’t have a large sum of money or wish to keep your donating anonymous from everyone including your spouse and your accountant, this isn’t the best choice.

Donate by Money Order

Able to be purchased at the post office, Wal-Mart or the local convenience mart, a money order is a way to anonymously give money to another for a nominal fee.  Money orders are usually more expensive at banks and the post office than retail establishments, but in general they don't cost more than $5.00.

Contact the Charity Directly

Whether it’s visiting their local office or giving them a call, often when you get in contact with a real person, they will understand your concern, appreciate your wanting to help, and find a solution that will maintain your privacy while donating. They can let you know where to drop off or mail a money order or cash, or make a note in your profile to have you removed from any lists. These organizations need your support more than ever, and likely will work with you to make you feel secure when donating.

Tips for Reducing Spam When Donating

My office has a main number and you need to dial a certain extension to reach an individual.  There is no receptionist who picks up.  I give that main number when I am obligated to provide a phone number.  In all my years, only one charity has actually done the legwork, found out my extension and called my desk.  If you don't have this option, there's nothing wrong with providing a number that is wrong but you know won't cause harassment on a stranger.  The number for the time, the weather, the now-disconnected Feminist Phone Intervention number may not offer a Bell Hooks quote but still provides a busy signal.

For mail, I use my business PO Box, which I check almost never and has a handy recycling bin right next to it.  Before I had my PO Box, I sometimes gave what I could confirm was a false address (non-existent house number on known street).

Which Charity Deserves Your Donation?

I have charities I support, some which have put me on multiple email lists, some which haven't.  I'm pretty vocal about my beliefs and political leanings, have an immediate family that has the same beliefs, and work for a company that respects my right to believe what I wish.  Add that to having this public blog and I'm in a very different situation from many of you.  Since not all of you have similar situations, and you may have different issues more important to you, I'd rather have you readers suggest organizations in the comments.  Feel free to share below the organizations who have your support and how they handle privacy. Also let us know if you have any other tips for maintaining privacy.

If you wish to be anonymous when commenting on this or any other post on the blog, when you click the “Name” field below your comment field, other fields will pop up to sign in with Disqus.  However, below that you will see a button, “I'd rather post as a guest.”  Click that and you can put in a random/fake name and email address (a@a.com works).

I welcome respectful, caring discussion on this blog but will delete those who are aggressive, antagonistic, or not contributing to the conversation.  If you choose to go the anonymous route and are antagonistic, I may ban your IP.  My goal is to keep Wardrobe Oxygen a safe place for all.

20 Comments

  • Anonymous November 16, 2016

    Thank you for this post. I want to support organizations that I know my community isn’t in favor of. I risk my family’s safety by having my mail man see flyers from Planned Parenthood in my mailbox. I never heard of Network for Good this is a good resource for me. And thank you for teaching me how to comment while being anonymous I am a teacher and worry about my privacy online.

    • Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen November 16, 2016

      I am so glad you found a solution to support organizations you care about while still protecting yourself and your family. Thank you for staying strong and standing up for what you believe even if those around you don’t support you. <3

  • LoriM November 16, 2016

    I skimmed and was wondering how such a great topic could possibly go political. Boy am I naieve! 🙂

    And sad.

    • Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen November 16, 2016

      It went political because it is politics that is affecting women’s issues. I try to keep politics off this blog, but 90% of the readers of this blog are women and the political climate is affecting our safety, our health, and our futures. It’s not just political but personal. 🙁

  • Pam S. November 15, 2016

    Thank you for this article Allie! I signed a petition online the other day and have been inundated with annoying requests since then. There are so many organizations I’d like to support, it’s hard to choose. I won’t be able to donate a lot of money, but if enough of us put a drop in the bucket, the bucket will eventually overflow. 🙂

    • Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen November 15, 2016

      A lot of those petition sites sell your information and don’t really accomplish much. When you sign a petition through the White House/We the People you don’t get all the email spam afterwards and you know it’s legit. I’ve done a lot of unsubscribing in the past year with all the petitions and electronic letters I have signed! And yes, any drop helps and if we all do a little bit together we can make a big difference.

  • Lin November 15, 2016

    I’m impressed and appreciative with the way you responded to me. Thank you!

    • Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen November 15, 2016

      My pleasure. I hope this post will help other women, and benefit organizations who are supporting us!

  • Sharon November 15, 2016

    On the phone number front – you can also use a Google Voice number. Google Voice assigns you an internet-based number, so it’s not your actual cell number. This is what I do.

    As a tax professional, agreed that DAFs are not a good solution for most people.

  • Carla November 15, 2016

    Ha! Loved the planned parenthood donation idea. Being from Indiana it’s just that much more special. I may just have to make my donation in Mike Pence’s name today…hehehe.

  • Morgan Rudder November 15, 2016

    DAF’s are really for people who have a large amount of money to donate and want to get the tax benefits while trying to decide how to use their money or in situations where people want to grow their funds over the course of years. I would consider them an alternative to setting up a family foundation. You will have some money taken off the top for using a DAF for fees and that kind of thing (that’s why companies offer them), and for a small amount of money, it’s simply not worth it. I work in philanthropy, and I can tell you that any organization that you are giving your money to should be donorcentric and they should respect your wishes as to anonymity. If this is a concern, you should talk frankly to the organization you want to support, and if they are not willing to address your concerns, you should find another place to give your money. And don’t discount places like your alma mater etc. A lot of colleges have set up great women’s organizations to combat sexual assault (among other things) in recent years, and those are great places where a little money can do a lot of good, and yes, you can allocate your donation to benefit only those organizations.

    • Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen November 15, 2016

      Thank you for this. I’ll be honest I was frustrated that the only advice I got from women-centered FB groups was a DAF, which IMO is not the best solution for this issue and a very… privileged response. Thank you for your insight, Morgan!

      • Morgan Rudder November 15, 2016

        Yeah, it’s a pretty privileged response. 🙂 We see DAF’s more often now than we used to, and I have often thought “Maybe someday…” The big reason for this increase though is that they are not regulated in any way, so take that that as you will. There are so many great ways to make philanthropy a part of your and your family’s life. I would encourage people who are interested to test the waters a bit–give locally, give nationally, and take a hard look at how your gifts are used and stewarded. We always want people to find the organization that “blows their dress up” (to quote my grandmother) even if it’s not us. (Or just give gifts to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name because that will never not be awesome.)

        • Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen November 15, 2016

          LOL I did that yesterday!

          • Ellie November 15, 2016

            I plan to make a donation to “Friends of the Unborn Humans” in your name. Hope you don’t mind.

          • Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen November 15, 2016

            I don’t mind. But I hope you know that only 3% of the total services by Planned Parenthood are abortions and federal funding is not allowed to be used for abortions (source: http://www.factcheck.org/2011/04/planned-parenthood/ ) In some communities, Planned Parenthood is the only place affordable for well woman care and cancer screenings.

          • Lindsay November 15, 2016

            Allie, thank you for this classy response to that somewhat spiteful remark. What just kills me is that it seems that so many people who are anti-choice are “friends of the unborn humans” but couldn’t care less about those humans once they are born! And Planned Parenthood is about soooooo much more than abortions…it’s about providing women AND men with access to health services, birth control, family planning, STD testing and more!

          • janejetson November 15, 2016

            Mike Pence is a public figure and as such is fair game. I am honestly not sure how public Allie sees herself. It would be mean and wrong to make a donation in the name of a private person you just don’t like or disagree with.

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