Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Network for Good ... or Bad?

ho-ho-ho, merry donations
Back in 2009, when I did my Christmas Charity donations, I paid directly to the charities on their own online websites. For my 2010 donation bonanza, I decided to try something different, in the form of
Network for Good.

Network for Good is a 'one-stop-shop' donation website, connected to over a million charities. The idea is simple: instead of going to a bunch of sites and filling out a bunch of forms, go to one site and do it all there. It works like a store for donations. Pick your charity, set the donation amount, and add it to your cart. Just like Amazon. Sort of.

I decided that this was worth a try.

On December 22, 2010, I browsed to the Network for Good website. A Giant Banner informed me that THERE IS STILL TIME TO DONATE FOR THE 2010 TAX YEAR, so I had no fear that I was too late to use the service. I created a profile, logged on, and used Network for Good to donate to 10 Organizations. I also added an 11th "donation" to Network for Good so that 100% of my money would be passed to the charities (as opposed to some of it being used to handle processing fees).

I got my receipt on screen and via e-mail. All was good.

Then, in late January 2011, I started to receive confirmations of my donations from my various charities with statements like "Thank you for your donation made on January 20, 2011 via Network for Good"  Excuse me? I made these donations back in December 2010. What was going on?

I immediately wrote to Network for Good:

I tried you for the first time back on December 22, 2010 (see receipt below),
but now I am not so happy about it.I am starting to receive confirmation emails from my various charities and I am not liking what I am seeing.

1) Why is there such a lag between my donation and its delivery to at least some of the various charities? I haven't received letters from some of them, so I am wondering if some haven't even received it yet???? I'm feeling the need to start contacting some of them to find and, and I'm not happy about this. Your tax page clearly says that I could donate up to Dec 31 for that tax year, but now I have conflicting documentation. This puts me in an awkward tax situation. I have your receipt and I have theirs, and they do not match.

2) Why was money taken away from my donations???
I paid the extra money to Network for Good so that 100% of my donations would go to my charities. But that is not what happened. Network for Good STILL took money.  e.g., I donated $25 to Rails-to-Trails, BUT my receipt from them says that I only donated $24.79. What happened? So now, not only do the dates not match, the numbers don't match either.

Could you please explain these discrepancies, as soon as possible?

I got a response pretty quickly:

Thank you for your inquiry.

1.) Let me explain how it works. For tax purposes, it goes by the date that you MADE the donation, not the date that the nonprofit received it. When you made your donation, you received a receipt via email with the date of the donation, amount, etc & that is what you use for tax purposes. What the nonprofit sends you is just an acknowledgement-you do not use that for your taxes. We pay the nonprofits on the 15th of the following month for all donations made in the entire previous month. The only reasons a nonprofit would not have received the check from us is if they moved and did not change their address with us or it got lost in the mail. I can tell you that out of all the donations you made on December 22, only one is not showing as having cashed the check Either they didn't receive it or they are holding on to it. It is up to them as to when they send out their thank you acknowledgements to the donors.
2.) Rails-to-Trails gave you the incorrect amount as they received 100% of your donation so their email should have said $25, not $24.79. They may not realize that the donors cover the fee for them as we changed that policy back in the summer of 2010. Once again, do not go by their email, go by the receipt that we sent you.

What am I supposed to think, now? I'm still not happy with this math ...

  • I've got 10 organizations that I've donated to.
  • Of these, I've only heard from 5 of them so far. Did the others really get the money, like Network for Good says? Or did they not? I guess I need to manually followup with all of them? GAD.
  • Of these 5, they report receiving the money on various dates between Jan 14 and Feb 17. This does not jive AT ALL with Network for Good's assertion that all money was transferred the 15th of the next month ... i.e., on Jan 15, 2011. How could one group receive the money BEFORE the official transfer date, while another received it over a month later? [This 15th of the month revelation is in fact on the NfG site, but it is only available 3 levels down in the online FAQs, which are available from the Network for Good Help link, which is in small print in the footer. I don't think I'm alone in assuming that my donation was going to be transferred in a few days.]
  • What about the one that says they received less than I sent to them?  She is saying to not believe Rails-to-Trails, that they really got $25. But they are saying that they only got $24.79. Who do I believe? I've written to R-to-T twice, but haven't heard back. I don't know if they are researching it, or if their responses are disappearing into my massive SPAM folder. Eventually, I'll figure this out, but this is a massive pain. 
  • And, what about the one that NfG says didn't cash the money?  This was Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. I followed up with them, asking why they hadn't cashed the check, and they were baffled by my question. They assured me that they had cashed the check within two days of getting it and it was in their bank account. So who do I believe? Do they really have the money ... or not?
So, bottomline, I have no decisive conclusions. Only doubt. Enough doubt that this coming December 2011, I'll be going back to my site by site approach from 2009. As Ripley so memorably said in Aliens, "It's the Only Way to be Sure."

Has anyone else donated through Network for Good? I'd be interested in hearing your experience.

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