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How to Check a Charity Website’s Validity in 60 seconds or Less

January 15th, 2010 · 2 Comments

BLUF: Use Who is, traffic reports from Alexis or Compete, and Google advanced search operators like “Link: and Info:” to determine if a website is legitimate.As a person with a large social network I get lots of requests to support causes and charities.  In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti I’ve gotten dozens of requests to help this “friend of a friend”.  Many are coming through either Facebook or LinkedIn.

So how do we figure out if the appeal is real?  Because even those we trust could be duped into supporting a charity that is a scam.

Here are few quick tips I can offer, if you have any other quick ideas, please let me know in the comments.

As a guinea pig I’ve chosen a site www.HeartsOnHaiti.com that an acquaintance of mine on LinkedIn sent to me.  I don’t know this person very well, so I’m a little suspect.  Here are the steps I took to verify the charity in my mind:

  1. Look up the Who Is file for the site.  Google “who is” or simply use the excellent http://www.networksolutions.com/whois-search This will tell you the registered owner and more importantly it will tell you how long the website name has been registered.  In the sample below we can see that this domain name was created on 18-Dec-2001- That’s good news!
    Domain ID:D81350702-LROR Domain Name:HEARTSWITHHAITI.ORG 

    Created On:18-Dec-2001 16:52:21 UTC Last Updated On:06-Dec-2009 01:45:46 UTC Expiration Date:18-Dec-2010 16:52:21 UTC Sponsoring Registrar:GoDaddy.com, Inc. (R91-LROR)

  2. Second we may want to look at traffic for the site using either Alexa.com or Compete.com.  Alexa only offers detailed traffic on the top 100,000 websites, so it’s not likely to have much info.  But Compete.com often has more info.  In this case Compete shows that the site had a spike in traffic last May.  I don’t know why that happened, but that shows me the site was running before the quake.
  3. And finally you can ask Google for lots of information about a site use the following advanced Google search operators
    link:website.com This will tell you which sites link to the site you are interested in.
    related:website.com Tells you other websites that Google thinks are similar to that site.
    info:website.com Tells you what Google knows about the site.

Using these pieces of information I was able to determine in under one minute that Hearts With Haiti is a legitimate site.  I also tried to use the Wayback Machine which will show you archived copies of older versions of a website, but it was down.

Please leave your suggestions for other ways to improve this technique in the comments below:

Posted via email from ckieff’s posterous

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Tags: Reasons For Net Marketing · Web Wednesday

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Leora Wenger // Jan 17, 2010 at 11:18 am

    In general I like your tips on how to check out a website. I use http://www.betterwhois.com/ often to check out sites and domain names.

    In terms of helping the people of Haiti, however, my instinct is to go with big, established organizations. A few suggestions are the Catholic Church (which is already established in Haiti), the O-U (which is sending money support Israeli rescue teams in Haiti) or Doctors Without Borders.

  • 2 jimbox // Jan 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    i’ll also throw in an endorsement for domiantools.com. along with traditional registrant info it’ll show you a snapshot of the home page- often an easy way to distinguish real pages from squatter’s pages.

    additionally- i’ll recommend tools/sites like those mentioned for checking domain availability. typing in a domain name to your browser logs the request in a squatter’s web logs. this has the potential to make bidding go up if that’s your desire. using these other tools just looks up public info without owners knowing of the requests.

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