According to Giving USA, charitable contributions in 2020 exceeded $470 billion, 70 percent of which came from individuals. Individuals deciding to donate to a particular organization may be considering factors beyond the organization’s particular mission, however compelling it may be. Misleading GoFundMe campaigns, FTC crackdowns on deceptive charities, and poorly run organizations are some of the reasons for increased scrutiny. One more reason is concern over how not-for-profit and charitable organizations handle donor personal information.
According to some reports, a third of donors perform research before donating. To assist these donors, several third-party rating sites, such as Charity Navigator, the Wise Giving Alliance, and CharityWatch, do much of the legwork for donors. They collect large amounts of data about these organizations, such as financial position, use of donated funds, corporate governance, transparency, and other practices. They obtain most of that data from the organizations’ Forms 990 and websites, where many organizations publish privacy policies.
Regulatory compliance obligations for websites have expanded in recent years, with privacy policies among the requirements. Even a website compliant with applicable regulation, however, may not derive an optimal score with Charity Navigator. For example, in many cases, website privacy statements need only apply to data collected on the website, not elsewhere at the organization. Also, website regulations do not require donors be specifically addressed. The point reduction for non-conforming privacy policies is relatively small for Charity Navigator, but can have an impact. Rating company CharityWatch reports on privacy policies “as an informational benchmark” but does not factor that information into its ratings.