Gulf Oil Spill Recovery: BBB Tips For Donors and Volunteers

June 18, 2010

DAYTON, OHIO, June 14, 2010 - In the wake of any disaster, many people reach for their checkbooks and donate money to aid and rescue organizations. Your Better Business Bureau cautions the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is unlike previous disasters and offers specific advice to potential donors and volunteers.

“Although tens of thousands of individuals are already involved in the response to the oil spill, many others wonder how they can pitch in and help, whether it means writing checks or volunteering their time,” said John North, BBB president and CEO. “Businesses, communities and wildlife across several states have been seriously impacted by the spill and the need for assistance is great. However, the constraints in the cleanup effort limit what charities can do with your money or how you can volunteer.”

Your BBB recommends you consider the following:

· Beware of well-intentioned, but inexperienced organizations. New nonprofits and relief organizations spring up following major disasters. While these groups might have the best of intentions, new charities responding to crises may lack the resources, experience and management needed to be effective. Ideally, look for established organizations with environmental expertise or experience aiding Gulf communities.

· Understand where your money is going. Find out how the organization plans to spend funds for Gulf relief, ecosystem recovery and related activities. Among the activities charities are promoting, in addition to shoreline rescue and protection, are needs assessment, litigation, economic relief, advocacy for new governmental energy policies and research into long-term solutions to minimize effects of future disasters. Ask whether the organization offers to restrict your donation for use in its Gulf-related activities or intends to use it to support all of its programs.

· Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations posted on blogs or Web sites, as authors might not have fully researched organizations listed. You can visit to research charities and verify if they’re BBB Accredited and meet your BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. Or, call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

· Find out if the charity is doing Gulf-related work or raising funds for other Gulf relief organizations. If a charity is raising money for other groups, you may want to consider avoiding the middleman and giving directly to those performing the work. Research ultimate recipients of the middleman’s donations to ensure these organizations are equipped to do the job you want to support and aware of the people or organizations soliciting on its behalf.

· Volunteering for Gulf clean-up may require special skills or training. Learn what qualifications are necessary before setting off for the site. If you’re looking to get your hands dirty, you’re out of luck unless you’re certified to handle hazardous materials or have received training to care for injured wildlife. In fact, Gulf residents are being told not to handle tar balls washing up on the beach or animals that might be affected by the spill. Other volunteer opportunities may include shoreline monitoring fundraising, office work, help in food programs for families in need and providing transportation. Numerous charities with volunteer programs ask you register with them, so they can assess your skills and place you appropriately when openings arise.

· There will be many opportunities to give, so keep checking. The Gulf region will be suffering from oil spill effects for years to come and, as the situation unfolds, there will be more opportunities to help in the future. If you can’t find a cause you can get behind right now, plan to revisit the possibility of making a donation or volunteering in the months to come.

Your BBB has compiled a list of nationally soliciting charities, which meet BBB standards, asking for donations and volunteers for the Gulf effort. More information and charity evaluations are available at Or, call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

About Your BBB Serving Dayton and the Miami Valley

Your BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses earning BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. Your BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 126 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring nearly 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Your BBB serving Dayton and the Miami Valley serves Montgomery, Greene, Clark, Darke, Miami, Preble, Shelby and northern Warren counties. Please visit for more information about your BBB.