How to Connect with Online Giving Sites - dummies

By Shannon Belew, Joel Elad

Online giving sites, or charity portals, typically work with thousands of types of charities. The portal actively solicits online donors, and then individuals choose which charities receive the donations. In some case, these sites also distribute their databases of nonprofits to larger entities, in an effort to increase giving potential.

A few of the largest and most widely recognized charity portals are

You pay no registration fee when you sign up with any of these three sites. However, they all deduct a small percentage of each donation (usually 3 percent) to cover their credit card processing fees. As for online reporting features and the transfer of donated funds to your organization, these items vary with each organization. You can check the FAQ section of each site to find more information on each organization’s specific policies.

Adding your nonprofit’s name to each site’s list of charities takes only a few minutes. When you’re confirmed as a recognized charitable organization (typically within 48 hours), you’re automatically listed on the site. You can also place on your website a link that directs your members to the charity portal. Then, when visitors to your site want to make a donation, they just click the appropriate link.

To be able to participate in any of these three charity portals, you first must register with GuideStar, which is part of Philanthropic Research, Inc., a widely recognized nonprofit. Charity portals use GuideStar to certify nonprofits in good standing.

You gain other advantages by registering with GuideStar. Because sites such as JustGive, Network for Good, Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving, and American Express also use the GuideStar database of charitable organizations to supplement their online databases for giving, you can be automatically listed on several charity portals.

The GuideStar site alone attracts more than 10 million visitors each year and distributed more than $1 billion to charities in 2013. That translates to a lot of potential donors (and dollars) for your cause.

Registering with GuideStar is a two-part process: You set up an account and list your organization in the GuideStar system. When you’re ready to get started, follow these steps to set up your account:

  1. Go to the GuideStar website at

  2. At the top left of the site’s home page, click the Create Account link.

    You see an online form on a new page that requests basic information to set up an account.

  3. While logged into your account, click the Update Nonprofit Report button at top of the home page.

    You will be instructed to learn more about the GuideStar Exchange, which allows you to access and update information on your nonprofit. You see instructions regarding how to register to “claim” your organization’s report, along with a free web page on GuideStar. You first need to request permission to update the report for your organization.

  4. Click the Manage Nonprofits Report link.

    A form appears, requesting the organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN).

  5. Enter the EIN and then click the Request Permission button.

    Permission is typically granted within 24 to 48 hours. Once approved, you proceed with the GuideStar Exchange registration.

  6. Set up your GuideStar Exchange account by providing the following information:

    • E-mail: Enter the e-mail address for your nonprofit.

    • Contacts: Enter the full name of the primary contact at the nonprofit and the name of the board chairman.

    • Location: Enter the geographic area served.

    • Organization: Specify which kind of nonprofit organization you are.

    • Mission statement: Provide your organization’s official mission statement.

    • Terms: Accept all terms and conditions.

After completing the registration, you’re an official bronze member with access to basic benefits. By completing more in-depth information about your organization, you become a silver or gold member, with access to additional benefits.

If your organization is an exempt nonprofit recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you might already be listed on the GuideStar site. Although the basic listing is pulled from your IRS Form 990, it doesn’t include full details about your organization. Update your report fully to ensure that as much information as possible is available about your organization.