There are many hot spots of need around the world. Children often suffer the worst. The number of children’s aid organizations asking for donations is correspondingly large. But it is not always clear how the donations are used. As a donor, how can I be sure that an organization will keep what it promises? How do I know that my donation will really arrive and be used wisely? How do I recognize black sheep? The German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI) provides answers and tips for donors.
Money that comes from the heart should be particularly well invested. The German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI) provides answers to all questions regarding donating, as a widely recognized, neutral inspection body. For over 100 years, the DZI donor helpdesk (link in German) has been collecting information on aid organizations, evaluating it, and thus acting as a consumer protection agency for donors. Data on around 1,000 organizations that request donations is collected in the DZI database. The section “The DZI advises against” features warnings against black sheep and organizations that do not put their donors’ money to the intended use. The DZI donation seal serves as a seal of approval for reputable organizations. Currently, some 230 organizations bear this seal. It must be renewed every year via a strict examination based on economic, legal and ethical criteria.
1. Less is more: focus your support. In this way, you reduce your workload for checking the organizations’ reputation in advance, and at the same time minimize the administrative workload for the organizations to process the donations. As soon as you are listed as an active donor with an organization, you are in the mailing list. The best way to reduce the number of donation letters is to choose one or a few organizations.
2. Freely and from the heart: Donating is an affair of the heart. You decide which topics are important to you. And don’t let yourself be put under pressure. The DZI classifies aggressive telephone calls, surprise visits at the front door and use of images meant to arouse pity as improper practices. The same applies to the mailing of trinkets and “gifts” in donation letters that are meant to pressure the recipient to give a donation in return and produce unnecessary expenses.
3. Transparency creates trust: You don’t always know the people behind an organization personally. Therefore, check carefully who you place your trust in. Visit the organization’s website, read the annual reports. The more transparent an organization is, the more trustworthy it is.
4. Free instead of earmarked: donations earmarked to a specific cause – relief for a specific desaster etc. – limit the freedom of action of the aid organizations and cause considerable additional administrative effort. To let the receiving organization use a donation as efficiently as possible, where it is needed the most, they should therefore be the exception.
5. DZI donation seal: The DZI donation seal is a widely recognized, neutral seal of approval. A list of all organizations certified with the seal can be found on the DZI website. In addition, some 1,000 charities are listed in the DZI database with their work and country focuses, fields of activity and financial data. Charities that in the DZI’s assessment do not work responsibly are summarized in the category “not worthy of support”. The DZI expressly advises against donating to a few organizations.
The DZI donor helpdesk provides further tips and recommendations.
We are often contacted by angry donors who were annoyed by a phone call asking for a donation, or donation letters on the subject of cleft lip and palate with added trinkets such as stationery, ballpoint pens etc. and who believe us to be responsible. We can usually quickly clarify that there is a mix-up, and that the Cleft-Kinder-Hilfe Professor Hermann Sailer Foundation based in Bielefeld is responsible.
We have no connection whatsoever with this organization, which was founded by Prof. Sailer when our organization already existed. The similarity of names again and again leads to confusion. Our unique selling point and the most important difference for donors is the DZI donation seal, which we have been bearing since 2012 for our responsible handling of our donation income.
In principle, the DZI donor helpdesk is also the right addressee if there are doubts about the seriousness and trustworthiness of an aid organization.