Given the recent proposed charity regulations, now more than ever, charities of all sizes are hyper-aware of establishing credibility with donors and volunteers alike. Until recently there have been few tools designed specifically to help you give donors confidence to support your charity when researching online. In 2015, that changed with the launch of validated online identities in the form of .ngo domain names.
In the past, webseals and webmarks displayed on websites have helped demonstrate a charity’s credibility, ranging from showcasing awards to being verified by a well-known organisation. While these tools are helpful when your visitor is familiar with the award or verification, there is no standard webseal or webmark for charities. Each one can mean something different and there’s a risk of confusion among consumers.
Before choosing which webseals to display on your site, conduct research on your target markets to see which ones are most appropriate for the type of donors you’re looking to attract. For example, in the UK, the FRSB tick is verified and familiar with donors, so it may be the only webseal you need.
Webseals are however challenged with “spoofing”. Spoofing is the act of placing a forged copy of a webseal on a webpage without the proper authority. This can raise questions in the minds of donors and undermine the value to legitimate webseal users.
2. SSL encryption
SSL is an encryption technology that has evolved with organisation validated and extended validation certificates in an attempt to vouch for an organisation’s authenticity in absence of purpose built technologies. SSL certificates were originally designed to encrypt data across the Internet.
3. Validated domain names
In 2015 a new tool at the very root of the internet was launched, that is designed specifically to verify a website’s legitimacy front and centre in its online presence. That tool is validated domain names, which have launched across several industries, not just the third sector. Qualified people or organisations can now go through a validation process to demonstrate that they meet certain criteria before being granted a domain that assures Internet users that when they visit a website, it is run by a legitimate organisation that has been vetted.
.realtor as an example, launched in partnership with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the US. Only confirmed members are able to register their own .realtor domains. Anyone visiting a website with an address ending in .realtor knows they are dealing with a legitimate NAR member.
Other examples of validated domain names include .lawyer, .pharmacy, and .ngo, which is exclusively for charities and nonprofits globally.
Only legitimate organisations that meet the eligibility requirements and can provide proof of their charity status are able to get a .ngo domain name. The NGO’s validity is now front centre to their online and offline presence. They exist in their website and email address and on their business cards. Donor, volunteers and other NGOs will know instantly that the organisation is legitimate as soon as they see the website address.
Unlike webseals, domains exist at the root of the Internet making them very difficult to spoof and unlike Extended Validation SSL Certificates .ngo domains do not cost hundreds of dollars. They are available from a growing list of online retail outlets , each with their own value-added services to go along with the domain, including website builders, email services and online marketing. .ngo is managed by the same trusted organisation that has been operating .org domains for the past 13 years, your Public Interest Registry.
We used to say that if you’re not online, you don’t exist, but simply being online is no longer enough. Bringing the creditability that you have built in your community in the real world to light online unlocks enormous scale and reach. It all starts with your online identity that now can be validated for all to see and trust.
Dave Stewart is Vice President Sales and Marketing, Public Interest Registry
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