BBB Advises Donors on How to Give Wisely to Pakistan Flood Relief.
September 10, 2010

The devastating aftermath of flooding in Pakistan has led to desperate appeals for money and support, and many Canadians are looking for ways to help by donating to a charity. But the Better Business Bureau warns that fraudulent charities may emerge to try and scam donations from well-meaning Canadians.

“Whenever there is a major natural disaster, be it home or abroad, you can count on the generosity of Canadians to donate time and money to help victims,” said Lynda Pasacreta, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC. “But you can also count on the appearance of poorly run and, in some cases, fraudulent charities.”

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to help Canadians decide how and where to direct donations:

Avoid charities that have sprung up in response to the disaster.

Donating money to established national and international organizations that have the means and experience to deliver aid is the best way to go. Be wary of charities with names that sound like familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.

Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other Web sites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to the Canadian Revenue Agency (www.cra.gc.ca/donors) to research charities and relief organizations to verify their accountability.

Do your homework before donating by text message.

Donating via text message is a quick and easy way to give. In Canada, a charity must include the details of their text campaign on its website, so you can see what you’re signing up for and how funds are being directed. Some charities may offer you a subsequent opportunity to receive update messages from them in the future, however you can choose to opt out from this offer.

If you want to make sure that the charity you’re donating to via text message is legitimate, check with the Mobile Giving Foundation Canada, the organization that administers mobile giving services, at www.mobilegiving.ca

Be cautious when giving online.

Proceed with caution when giving online, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization.

Be wary of claims that 100 per cent of donations will assist relief victims.

Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims that 100 per cent of collected funds will be assisting flood victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fundraising and administrative expenses.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas.

Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers to quickly provide assistance. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs.