I've never received an e-mail like the one I got from "Sherry" in the University of Memphis area:
"For a while now, I have been a participant in the "click to donate" sites such as www.care2.com/click2donate and www.thenonprofits.com and I am curious if these sites are legitimate and do they really work?"
Click-to-donate sites are a new rage in charitable giving. Private companies pay to put ads on these sites, then they are bound by contract to set aside so much money to the charities on the sites based on how often people "click" on those charities.
Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer for the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance in Arlington, VA, says the problem with click-to-donate sites -- is following the money.
He says there's virtually no way to know for sure that the sites or their advertisers are funneling the money to your charity of choice.
One of them even has a disclaimer that says your clicking donation is "AS IS," like some junk car deal. It also says the site could include "technical inaccuracies."
Nancy Crawford of the Mid-South Better Business Bureau dug even deeper. She decided to see how many "clicks" it would take to generate a free mammogram on one "click-to-donate" site whose charities included a breast cancer organization.
Crawford says she found out it would take 45,000 "clicks" to generate enough cash donations from the site's advertisers to pay for one mammogram.
Weiner says if you're really considering a "click-to-donate" site, it must include:
* NAMES/LOCATIONS OF EVERY CHARITY THAT HAS RECEIVED DONATIONS THROUGH THE SITE IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS.
* AMOUNT IN DOLLARS OF EVERY DONATION EACH CHARITY RECEIVED IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS.
* HOW MUCH $ PER "CLICK" GOES TO EACH CHARITY.
If the site cannot or will not divulge that information, forget it! Deal directly with the charities you choose.
For guidance on how to choose the right charity, click here for my Ask Andy segment on checking and choosing charities: http://www.wmctv.com/Global/story.asp?S=9827697.