FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Table of Contents

  1. How do I donate to a charitable organization in Bolivia ?
  2. Can I send money to my needy relative through Friends of Bolivia ?
  3. What is the benefit of making my donation through Friends of Bolivia ?
  4. Where can I find information about the 501(c)(3) status of an organization ?
  5. What is the criteria for volunteering for service with Friends of Bolivia?
  6. What is the annual budget of Friends of Bolivia ?
  7. How does Friends of Bolivia finance its activities if there is no administrative budget ?
  8. What is the criteria for selecting Charitable Organizations in Bolivia ?
  9. I thought non-profit organizations had a .org in their domain names. How can you claim to be a charitable organization when you have a .com in your domain name ?
  10. Why are so many of your donations going to organizations in Cochabamba? You guys look like you favor Cochabamba! There are other deserving institutions in other cities and states in Bolivia that also deserve help!



How do I donate to a charitable organization in Bolivia ?

You can donate directly to the charitable organization in Bolivia if you know the name and address, or go through a U.S. based non-profit charitable organization.

The problem with sending the donation directly to Bolivia is that sometimes the mail system is not reliable and your check donation may get lost. The Postal service does not like cash to be sent through the mail. If the charitable organization in Bolivia does not have the right relationship with a bank, some of your donation will get eaten up in bank service charges, so that a smaller portion of your donation will get to the charitable organization.

You can also send the money to a U.S. based organization that can send the money to a Bolivian charity on your behalf.

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Can I send money to my needy relative through Friends of Bolivia ?

Friends of Bolivia is a U.S. based non-Profit Public Service Organization recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization.

A 501(c)(3) organization is tax-exempt. This means that it does not have to pay U.S. and state income taxes. Donations made to the organization are tax deductible to the donor. In order to have this privilege, the 501(c)(3) organization must follow some special rules, or it will lose its tax-exempt status.

One special rule is that benefits cannot go to an individual. So Friends of Bolivia cannot send money on your behalf directly to an individual in Bolivia, no matter how needy the person.

However, Friends of Bolivia can and will be happy to send your donation to an organization in Bolivia which helps needy people.

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What is the benefit of making my donation through Friends of Bolivia ?

Since Friends of Bolivia is a 501(c)(3) organization, your tax-exempt donation is generally deductible if you itemize your deductions on your Federal and State income taxes. If you send your donation through Friends of Bolivia, Friends of Bolivia will give you an official receipt, and you can deduct the amount of the donation on your income tax. This information is provided to increase your awareness; your specific situation will determine the deductibility of your donation. For tax advice please consult a tax professional.

Volunteers of Friends of Bolivia frequently go to Bolivia at their own expense to check on the Charitable Organizations to verify that donations are being used properly. It is important to emphasize that none of the money raised through donations pays for the travel of these volunteers.

Some volunteers have relatives and friends in Bolivia who live near the Charitable Organizations, and can go in person to find out what is happening. Funds are given to organizations based on their requests and their objectives, and it is expected that they will provide an accounting of how the funds are utilized. Friends of Bolivia guarantees that the full amount of your donation will be sent to a Charitable Organization. Our in-person evaluation and due diligence efforts makes us confident that the organizations are serving a legitimate charitable purpose.

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Where can I find information about the 501(c)(3) status of an organization ?

The US Internal Revenue Service puts out a publicly available list of Public Benefit Organizations. An online database maintained by Guidestar.org maintains a list of 501(c)(3) organizations in the U.S., and where available, the annual US IRS form 990. Friends of Bolivia, Inc is listed in both of these places.

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What is the criteria for volunteering for service with Friends of Bolivia?

The criteria for volunteering is a generous heart, and the willingness to serve without expecting financial return. Friends of Bolivia needs volunteers so that it can provide greater service to the needy, through the ability and talents of volunteers. Friends of Bolivia offers the opportunity to meet a large number of friendly and compassionate people, and the vehicle to offer your services for the benefit of people less fortunate than ourselves.

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What is the annual budget of Friends of Bolivia ?

The annual budget of Friends of Bolivia is $0. Since we do not have any paid administrative staff, all the money raised by fundraising efforts goes to Charitable causes, and our survival does not depend on grant money. Our goal for the 2002-2003 year is to raise $20,000 to support charitable organizations in Bolivia.

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How does Friends of Bolivia finance its activities if there is no administrative budget ?

Our dedicated volunteers and hardworking board of directors put their hearts and minds into this activity. When out of pocket expenses are incurred for projects, volunteers donate the money as a charitable contribution. Volunteers donate their time, effort and energy. We consider ourselves to be fortunate and honored to be able to volunteer for such an organization, and want to share our good fortunes with those less fortunate to make the world a better place. By not relying on paid administrative staff, we do not worry about putting people out of work in case grant money is not available for administrative staff.

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What is the criteria for selecting Charitable Organizations in Bolivia ?

We rely on volunteers and members of the public both in Bolivia and the US to bring prospective deserving charities to our attention; we also invite Charitable Organizations in Bolivia to contact us and provide details of their programs and needs to us. Friends of Bolivia uses the resources at its disposal to determine how the funds are distributed to each of the beneficiaries.

Qualification in one year is not grounds for automatic qualification the next. Some of the criteria for selection include personal knowledge of the activities of the organization by our volunteers, the type and number of needy people served and the services provided, and their willingness to provide information about their activities and operations. Our volunteers are knowledgeable about local conditions, and can evaluate if the costs or expenditures are justified and reasonable. A future requirement we are considering is their willingness to publish the source of their donations so that prospective donors will have a clearer understanding of the fraction of their contribution to the whole organization.

Sometimes a prospective donor will designate that the donation goes to a certain cause or an organization. To the extent that the objectives and mission of that cause are consistent with the requirements of Friends of Bolivia, we will accommodate the donor. Much as we regret doing so, sometimes we may turn away a donation if the donor puts conditions that are not consistent with our requirements, and accepting such donations may cause us to lose our tax-exempt status.

Unrestricted donations and funds are allocated at the end of the year by a decision process of the Board of Directors. To reduce the cost and overhead of sending small amounts of money to Bolivia, all the funds are usually disbursed at the end of our fiscal year. If there is an immediate or urgent need, we may send the money at other times. If your donation falls into this category, please contact us before you send your donation.

In the future, Friends of Bolivia also expects to initiate new projects with Charitable Organizations in Bolivia; if so, some of the unrestricted funds will go to those new projects.

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I thought non-profit organizations had a .org in their domain names. How can you be a charitable organization when you have a .com in your domain name ?

When we tried to register the .org name, we found that it belonged to another organization named Friends Of Bolivia based in Oklahoma City which does very good work of donating medical supplies and equipment to the needy in Bolivia. Since Friends of Bolivia is a registered non-profit corporation, we did not hesitate to use friendsofbolivia.com as our domain name. Please note that while is it customary for non-profits to use the .org in their names, there is no legal requirement to do so. Although Friends Of Bolivia in California is not affiliated with Friends of Bolivia in Oklahoma City, it commends and applauds the good work that the other organization is doing in bringing medical aid to Bolivia. As we all know, there is no such thing as too much aid for Bolivia.

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Why are so many of your donations going to organizations in Cochabamba? You guys look like you favor Cochabamba! There are other deserving institutions in other cities and states in Bolivia that also deserve help!

The main reason is that we receive funding applications for funds from organizations in Cochabamba. We receive very few applications from organizations in other cities. In addition, since many FOB volunteers have family in or near Cochabamba, they are more familiar with Cochabamba based charities, and can do due diligence more easily than for other places.

Our primary criteria for funding is need rather than geography, last year we organized a special fundraiser for the victims of the La Paz floods. We also searched out a suitable institution in Potosi, and it took a lot of time and effort to find one.

FOB allows donors to designate gifts to particular institutions in other parts of Bolivia, on the assumption that the donor is familiar with the good work of the institution. As long as the institution serves people that FOB wants to help, FOB will act as intermediary for the transfer of funds. As an example, several donations earmarked for reconstruction of the city of Totora ravaged by the 1998 earthquake were sent to the volunteer committee there to rebuild portions of the church.

We encourage potential donors to research non-profit institutions in Bolivia, and bring them to our attention. Your research and information is more convincing when you are personally donating to that cause through Friends of Bolivia. This means that YOU have the power to make the change instead of complaining about the unfair treatment. Take this opportunity to proactively make the change!

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Friends of Bolivia, Inc. / P.O. Box 90249 / San Jose, CA 95109-3249
Website copyright © Friends of Bolivia
Watermark image of church courtesy of Adam Jones.