Family and children

Giving Right: How Donors Identify Reputable Organizations


Düsseldorf (dpa / tmn) – Whether for people in need, needy children or cultural concerns – many German citizens donate to a good cause. An important question: does the money get where it is needed? The problem: Not every organization […]

Giving Right: How Donors Identify Reputable Organizations.  Those who only want to donate to reputable aid organizations can use the DZI seal as a guide.  (Source: dpa / Karl-Josef Hildenbrand)

Düsseldorf (dpa / tmn) – Whether for people in need, needy children or cultural concerns – many German citizens donate to a good cause. An important question: does the money get where it is needed?

The problem: Not every organization that promises to do good is as serious as it is, explains the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center. Donations should therefore not be distributed too gullibly.

An indication of a reputable organization is the seal of the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI). If an appeal for donations bears the logo, it is guaranteed that the organization advertises clearly and objectively, operates economically and also verifiably shows how the donor’s money is being used.

Important to know: Only aid organizations that report to the DZI and pay the costs for the test are audited. Smaller organizations often save this. If a club is missing from the list, it does not have to mean that it is dubious.

Fact check: donations – how much money is received?

– Claim: Hardly anything from donations reaches those in need.

– Evaluation: Not durable. How much money is used for project work depends on which organization you donate.

– Facts: “The vast majority of organizations in Germany work seriously,” says Burkhard Wilke, the scientific director of the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI). The institute issues a recognized donation seal for non-profit organizations. Currently 231 are allowed to carry the seal.

An important requirement is that an organization can be shown to use its resources sparingly. Means: The expenditure for advertising and administration does not usually amount to more than 30 percent of the total expenditure. In fact, they are an average of 13 percent for the current seal bearers, says Wilke. Further criteria for the seal are true, objective advertising and an independent supervisory body.

Aid organizations with a seal

The seal bearers include many large aid organizations such as the German Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and German World Hunger Aid. The latter is listed in the DZI database as an organization with low advertising and administrative costs. A look at the 2017 annual financial statements confirms this: 92.8 percent of Welthungerhilfe’s total expenditure went directly to projects (project funding and project support). Another 1.5 percent went into education and awareness-raising work. And only 5.7 percent was spent on advertising and administration.

The DZI only checks associations that have earned at least 25,000 euros annually in the past two financial years. Small, regionally working associations with lower income cannot apply for the seal. The logo of the “Transparent Civil Society Initiative” is also a good indication that a non-profit organization fulfills basic transparency criteria.

Regardless of the seal, the DZI evaluates the work of aid organizations. The institute currently advises against donations at 23 organizations. In doing so, it claims that meaningful information about the work of an association is not accessible. Or there have been repeated indications that an organization is doing inappropriately when it comes to fundraising.

Control of fundraisers

Speaking of collecting: There are serious hurdles for asking for donations on the street or at the front door in only three federal states. In Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Thuringia you need a permit. This is laid down in collection laws. The remaining countries abolished this over time. However, the lack of supervision does not automatically mean that dubious organizations are mainly on the road. In principle, fraud is possible with all forms of fundraising, said Wilke.

Nonetheless, the DZI welcomes a control like in Rhineland-Palatinate. There, the supervisory authority regularly issues collection bans, which protects the population from dubious organizations. In the Bundestag, however, a motion from the Greens parliamentary group was rejected last year, which, among other things, aimed to establish collection supervision in all federal states based on the model of Rhineland-Palatinate.

How many Germans donate?

According to a recent study, there are fewer and fewer, but more generous donors in Germany. Between the beginning of the year and the end of September, around 16.5 million private individuals gave around 3.3 billion euros to charitable organizations and churches. This is the result of a survey commissioned by the German Donation Council, which was presented in Berlin.

This means that there are half a million fewer donors than in the same period of the previous year, but an increase in income of six percent, the association announced. He expects a “very good” result of 5.4 to 5.5 billion euros by the end of 2018 – that would be more than in the two previous years.

Most donors since the survey began – 29.9 million – had been recorded in the same period in 2005. These numbers were still under the influence of the tsunami in Thailand at the end of 2004 and have not nearly been reached since then. According to the study, denominational organizations in particular are seeing declining income. Most donations are made by people over the age of 70.

What and how much do Germans donate?

On the basis of monthly self-reports from 10,000 Germans over the age of ten, the German Donation Council estimates the average donation at 35 euros (previous years: fluctuating between 26 and 35 euros). According to information, three quarters of all donations went to humanitarian aid.

Among the events that led to donations in recent months, the Donation Council names the drought in Africa at the beginning of the year, the floods in India in August and the typhoon in the Philippines in September. However, a quarter of the donors are willing to give something without any particular impetus.

There was a record donation of 5.5 billion euros in 2015. Among other things, the arrival of many refugees in Germany had increased the willingness to help. Since then, donations to refugees have decreased. There were now increases – starting from low levels – compared to the results of a year ago for purposes such as sport, environmental and nature protection and animal welfare.