BBB Advises Donors To Check Charities Out Before Giving To Tornado Relief Efforts

May 21, 2013

Columbia, SC, May 21, 2013 – The lives lost and homes destroyed by Monday’s tornado in Oklahoma have prompted an outpouring of sympathy – and the potential for scammers to prey on those who would like to help.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has tips to help donors evaluate charities that may be able to provide aid to grieving families and support for the community as they move toward recovery from the tornado. 

“Our hearts go out to the families affected by this disaster,” said Jim Camp, BBB President and CEO. “Unfortunately, scammers often try to capitalize on events that capture the hearts of people who want to respond to a tragedy like this. The BBB can help donors avoid scams and find trustworthy charities.”

The BBB encourages donors to look for the BBB Accredited Charity seal on a charity’s website or other literature. If the seal is there, donors can be assured that the charity complies with the BBB’s 20 Standards of Charity Accountability.

Donors also should be suspicious of unsolicited emails, text messages or phone calls that ask for donations related to the disaster or another specific event, such as a hurricane or earthquake. Don’t click on links in emails unless you are able to verify that it comes from a legitimate charity.

The BBB has tips that can help you make sure your donation will be used appropriately:

  • If you are unfamiliar with an organization, don't hesitate to ask the charity for written information about its programs and finances.
  • Don't succumb to pressure to give money on the spot. A charity that can use your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow. Watch out for appeals that bring tears to your eyes, but tell you nothing about how your donation will be used.
  • Before making online donations, determine whether the charity’s website is secure and that it has a privacy policy concerning the use of your name, email address or other personal facts. (Secure sites’ addresses begin with https://.)
  • When considering support for a cause-related marketing campaign, find the answers to these questions: What portion of the purchase price will benefit the charity? What is the duration of the campaign? What is the maximum or minimum total contribution? If the information is not on the item, check the organization’s website.
  • Before donating used items, make sure they are in good shape to reuse. Donating junk puts an undue burden on the charity and does more harm than good. You may want to consider selling the item and donating the proceeds to a charity.
The BBB urges donors to seek professional advice if they are in doubt about the deductibility of contributions.  Other helpful tips for making donations are posted on the BBB website ( The IRS website ( has information on the deductibility of donations.

Consumers can learn how to protect themselves or find BBB Business Reviews by calling (800) 892-3584 or by going online to