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I would like to donate some money to a charity, but I would rather they not know who donated it. How could I go about this if cash isn't an option?

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    When donating anonymously to an individual (not a charity) I know several who have called local pastors to act as an intermediary. – Alex B Feb 8 '11 at 16:49
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    Are you interested in taking a tax deduction for your donation? (Even if done for selfless reasons, the tax deduction could enable you to send more money to charity and less to the government.) Anonymity may complicate the matter, if you can't get a receipt. – user296 Feb 8 '11 at 19:38
  • Also, do you think that there's a substantial risk that the charity will actually care about the donation to provide you with substantial recognition? If it's a large worldwide charity (e.g. Food for the Poor, WorldVision, what-have-you) this is relatively unlikely. Of course, if it's a small local charity that's another matter. – user296 Feb 8 '11 at 19:56
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    @fennec: I'm an addict, and want to donate to a local addictions charity. But, if they later send me some mail (e.g. a tax receipt), I don't want any of my family members to discover that an addictions charity sent me mail. Also, I don't want the charity to bother me for more donations. Finally, I don't want the charity to treat me differently next time I phone them for help or advice. – tealhill supports Monica Mar 14 '16 at 2:40
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    That Bible quote isn't about the recipient not knowing about the donation, it's about you not knowing, or at least, acting like you know, that you gave the money. It's about not getting full of yourself because you're such a great person who gives money to charity. – Acccumulation Jan 20 at 23:02
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I'm familiar with the quote. The institution you donate to can keep you anonymous. The person actually benefiting is not aware of your generosity. This is how I understand the biblical meaning. By the way, a number of people who donate, do not take the tax deduction, so as to not benefit. To them I suggest they calculate the refund, and add that to their donations the next year.

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    That's a good point about tax deduction. I've always taken mine, because I don't see it as getting money, but rather the gov't letting me keep my money. – C. Ross Feb 8 '11 at 12:33
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    There are those with faith-based reasons not to take the deduction. I use the deduction as an excuse to find more money to donate. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Feb 8 '11 at 21:22
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In the US:

  • You can use an intermediary site like justgive.org or Network For Good. Network For Good charges 5% and JustGive charges 4.5% for the service. I've no experience with either site to recommend them or otherwise.

In the UK:

  • You can set up a CAF (Charities Aid foundation) Charity Account. This allows you to donate to charities anonymously, while still allowing the recipient to benefit from Gift Aid (where they can reclaim the income tax you'd paid on the donation). You can even use this account to donate to overseas charities if you're donating at least £250.

  • Or you can use a different intermediary such as BT MyDonate or The Big Give or another intermediary. See the Wikipedia article "Comparison of online charity donation services in the United Kingdom".

In Canada:

  • You can use an intermediary site. As of April '16, it looks like the only options are CanadaHelps (which is itself a registered charity) and Chimp. Each website charges a fee for its services — either a percentage or a flat fee. Each website accepts several methods of payment, including credit cards and other options. You will get a tax receipt for your donation.

If there's a United Way charity in your country, it may have a donor choice program which may be able to forward a designated donation to any other charity in your country. The United Way probably charges a fee for this service. I'm not sure whether or not the United Way would be willing to keep you anonymous, and I'm not sure whether or not the United Way would add you to its mailing list. More details may be available elsewhere online.

  • @Rich Aren't both justgive and Network for Good "basket charities" that split your donations amongst charities? The UK account sounds excellent though, do we have something like that in the States? – C. Ross May 3 '10 at 20:16
  • From a quick look at justgive.org I believe you get to choose which charities to give to. I think you set up a basket for repeat giving. – Rich Seller May 4 '10 at 9:46
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Can you get a cashier's check from your bank, made out in the charity's name, and mail it to the charity?

From what I recall of the last few times I've gotten a cashier's check from the bank, it didn't have anything on it that identified me. A determined person could probably trace it back to you, but you're not really looking for strong anonymity.

Another possibility would be a postal money order, but I'm not sure whether you can leave the "From" section blank.

The money order would have a fee, but the cashier's check should be free. (It is at both my local bank and my CU.)

  • Even if you have to fill in the "From" is there anybody enforcing that the name matches your legal name? I would imagine that even if the postmaster general watches you fill out the form you could get him to let it slide if you explained why the name did not match your own. – Michael Jan 20 at 23:04
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How big or frequent of a donor are you?

For larger donors in the U.S., there is the Donor Advised Fund. You donate to the DAF, and the money can either be re-donated onward to a charity of your choice, or stay there and be invested (the choices are similar to a 401K, index funds, bond funds, etc.), and later donated.

As far as anonymity, you simply tell the DAF that you want to be anonymous when you re-donate. The DAF takes care of it, and is the donor of record.

The DAF is a charity itself, and you take the tax deduction at the time you donate to the DAF. So in that sense, it's like an IRA for charitable donations. This lets you time-shift your donations: you can make a big lump sum donation one year and meter it out in future years. I do that myself, and it's a good way around the Trump tax changes (which doubled the standard deduction, which kills deductibility for most people who had it before; this has hurt charities badly). Also, many DAFs have an "initial price of entry" around $5000, so that plays well with that.

The DAF keeps you honest, and protects you from flim-flams. They do the research, and will only donate to bona-fide charities.

  • It lets you shut down cold any fundraisers who accost you on the street; "I donate a different way; I'll need your EIN." End of conversation.
  • It also stops private fundraisers, who send most of that junk mail and take your money, only giving the residue "after expenses" to the charity. Some charities have gotten only 9% of the money.

The DAF also handles "complex" gifts that the charity would be ill-equipped to handle directly. For instance it's always better to donate appreciated stock, rather than sell the stock. In other words, let the charity pay the capital gains tax, at its rate of 0%. But your local SPCA is ill-prepared to accept stocks. So you donate to the DAF and they liquidate it for you. They can also handle very complex donations like apartment buildings, musical rights, etc. My DAF tells me about 60% of their total contributions are immediately re-donated, so clearly, this "convert my weird gift for me" function is widely used.

  • Ok, so now i'm curious about where the other 40% goes... – Michael Jan 20 at 23:06
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    @Michael Oh, those donations (to the DAF) are held in the DAF and placed in investments, where they grow, and the donors direct them to charities later. Meanwhile the money grows with the market. You can choose investments internal to the DAF such as S&P index funds, bond funds, foreign, same stuff you find in a 401K. The expense ratio on mine is about 0.15%/year plus 0.6%/year for the DAF itself. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 20 at 23:33
  • Thanks for the answer, good callout! – C. Ross Jan 24 at 13:11
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If I were donating money to a charity, i.e. an organization set up to help others, I would simply send them the money and ask that my name not be used in publicity. That would mean that the person(s) actually benefiting from my donation didn't know who I was. The charity would know, but they don't themselves benefit.

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