Ask questions and do your research before giving to a charity
Hurricane Sandy thrashed the Eastern coast with harsh winds, rain and flooding. While Sandy may have died down, charities may soon come to life soliciting for donations to support the relief efforts. With many options available for donors to consider, the Better Business Bureau offer tips for donors looking to assist in the relief efforts.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability were developed to assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to foster public confidence in charitable organizations. The standards seek to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations and to advance support of philanthropy.
Before giving your donation, the BBB recommends the following:
Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you are seeking to give to a charity organization involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s Web site.
Be wary of imitations. Don't be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization.
Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.
Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs. Watch out for charities that don’t already have staff in the affected areas as they may not be able to provide assistance quickly.
Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.
Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing—while well intentioned— may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need - unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.
Be cautious of online or text message solicitations. Online giving can be very convenient, but avoid donating in response to unexpected text messages or emails that claim to link to a relief organization. Scam organizations with official looking names can be created overnight. If you want to give to a charity involved in the relief efforts, go directly to that charity’s website.
Avoid giving to charities that:
Use high pressure solicitations. A legitimate charity will be glad to give you the time needed to fully research its program.
Offer prizes. Most honest charities do not try to entice you to give by telling you that you have won a prize.
Steer you away from mailing a donation. Dishonest individuals try and avoid doing anything through the U.S. mail to avoid federal prosecution under postal statutes.
To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in Central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: www.bbb.org or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com