McGill-Leaks: How Safe is Your Private Information When You Give to a Charity?

Posted by 7 Mar, 2012

The recent posting of confidential information on donors from McGill’s Development and Alumni Department is very unfortunate.
Ardent supporters of McGill will know the University would never willingly release such information so it should not affect their future gifts to the University but it does cause one to think about the privacy of such information.
As a donor, how can you ensure your information is being managed in the most confidential manner?
Most large charitable institutions will use sophisticated database systems to manage their charitable gifts and donor information that are usually well protected. Smaller charities however, may not have such controls and may simply keep their donors’ information on a spread sheet or in a simple database. With the advent of Wiki Leaks, obviously even the most secure systems can be hacked into.
.If you are concerned about privacy of your information, you may wish to ask the charity you are donating to explain their process of managing your private information-what information do they keep about you on their system, is it protected and who has access? You should be comfortable that the charity is taking measures to keep your information confidential.
You can give anonymously, which will protect you on public listings of donors but ultimately your name and information will occur somewhere in the charity’s systems for record keeping and tax receipting purposes so even anonymous giving does not totally guarantee your privacy.
You can give via a donor advised fund or through your local community foundation. This way, the recipient charity never even receives your information. However, be aware that donor advised funds and community foundations will keep your information so it is just as important to know how they will handle your private information as they will be just as vulnerable as McGill depending on the security of their systems.
You can be very selective in the personal information you provide to charities. You may have a business address/phone/email you can use instead of your own personal information. You may be able to use a staff contact instead of your own family name or you may have a foundation associated with your giving and that could be used as the principal contact information.
If none of the above work for you, you might ask the charity to keep your information separate from their computerized lists with secure controls and with very limited access. What an old fashioned idea! While this may be more work for the charity, if they are keen to accept your donation, they may well accommodate your privacy needs in such a manner.
Giving seems to be getting more complicated than ever but it is very important to protect your privacy and make sure those receiving your gifts follow suit.
Need some help with your philanthropic giving? Contact us at:

Categories : Corporations, Cost-Effective Management, Monitor & Evaluate, Research & Due Diligence, Terry Smith, Wealth Advisors

Comments are closed.