Giving money is one of the easiest, fastest ways to support a cause you care about, but that ease and speed has some risks. When a crisis triggers a surge in giving, the number of bad actors trying to steal well-intentioned funds often grows, too.
In response to the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest, people are rushing to donate to organizations and individuals fighting racism. For making those donations, the common advice applies: Research charitable organizations online and verify their legitimacy using tools like Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau.
However, those conventional guidelines are not enough in a world of grassroots social media campaigns that rely on Venmo, Cash App, GoFundMe, and other crowdfunding or peer-to-peer (P2P) payment platforms.
- Spend time researching donation options of all kinds
- Accept that all donations carry risk
- Patronize businesses and creators committed to anti-racism
- After you donate, monitor payment accounts for signs of fraud
Watch Out for Scams
Falling for scams is common because setting them up is easy. Requesting money is as simple as putting a P2P account name in a social media profile and then posting a call for donations in front of as many eyes as possible. If you send money through P2P or crowdfunding platforms, you may never know how the recipient uses it. Depending on the site, you may have no way to get your money back, even if you were duped.
GoFundMe, the popular crowdfunding site, says fraudulent campaigns make up less than 0.1% of all its campaigns, and it will refund donations it determines to have been misused.
One solution is to send financial support only to organizations vetted by third parties. But you’re not going to find all community fundraisers on Charity Navigator. Mutual aid funds may not have BBB ratings. That doesn’t mean they’re not worthy recipients, but it does mean it’s easy for scammers to pose as similarly structured causes.
Commit to Research, Trust, and Risk
If you find a person or group you want to send money to but it isn’t a registered nonprofit, take the vetting upon yourself. Look for an established online presence and history of organized work that supports anti-racist efforts. Seek out clear statements for how they will use the money. Beyond that, know that you are acting on trust and accepting some risk—just like you do with many financial decisions.
Buy Anti-Racist Works
Giving your business to anti-racist activists and educators is another way to give financial support to leaders, as well as work on your personal contributions to effecting change. Here are a few places to start:
- Ibram X. Kendi, professor and director of the Anti-racist Research & Policy Center at American University, wrote “An Antiracist Reading List” published in The New York Times in 2019 and is the author of several books, including “How to Be an Antiracist.”
- Rachel Cargle, an educator and writer, offers several courses in her series “The Great Unlearn,” and it is supported by a paid membership structure.
- Rachel Ricketts, an educator and lawyer, also leads paid online courses on committing to anti-racism.
Donate to an Established Nonprofit
There are dozens of highly rated anti-racist and civil rights organizations to which you can donate, and you can find such ratings on sites like Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau, and CharityWatch. You can also search for organizations that can accept tax-exempt donations using a tool on the IRS website. Don’t forget to ask your employer if it matches charitable donations, which organizations it donates to, and how to add recipients to its donation list.
Know Your Fraud Protections
Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you can only be responsible for up to $50 in unauthorized charges on a credit card. But you could be on the hook for all money taken from your bank account through fraudulent ATM or debit card transactions, depending on how quickly you report the fraud.
All that is to say it’s smart to make donations and purchases with a credit card when you can, but always keep an eye on your accounts for fraudulent charges regardless of what you use and where you give money. Also keep in mind that some payment processors charge fees for using credit cards but not for using debit cards.