Gulf Oil Spill Recovery: BBB Tips for Donors and Volunteers

June 11, 2010

New York, NY - June 10, 2010 - In the wake of any disaster, many reach for their checkbooks and donate money to aid and rescue organizations. The Better Business Bureau Foundation’s New York Philanthropic Advisory Service (NYPAS) cautions, however, that 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 a check or volunteering their time,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the BBB of Metro NY and its Foundation. “Businesses, communities and wildlife across several states have been seriously affected by the spill and the need for assistance is great. However, the charitable response to this extraordinary disaster is just starting to emerge at this time. Donors and would-be volunteers should ask questions and investigate carefully before giving to charities or attempting to volunteer.”

BBB recommends that donors and volunteers consider the following:

  • 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 that 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 for general support for all of its programs.

  • 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 that these organizations are able to do the job you want to support and are aware of the individual or organization soliciting on its behalf.

  • Before donating, check to see whether the organization has enough experience to handle recovery-related tasks - New non-profits and relief organizations spring up following any major disaster. Often, new charities responding to a crisis may lack the resources and experience needed to be effective. Ideally, look for established organizations with environmental expertise or experience aiding Gulf communities.

  • 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 any tar balls that wash up on the beach or animals that might be affected by the spill. Other volunteer opportunities may include shoreline monitoring, fund-raising, office work, help in food programs for families in need and providing transportation. Numerous charities with volunteer programs ask that you register with them so that 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 the effects of the oil spill for years to come and, as the situation unfolds, there will be more opportunities for donors to step in and 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.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance has compiled a list of nationally soliciting charities ( which meet BBB standards and are asking for donations and volunteers for the Gulf effort. More information and charity evaluations are available at

For more information or to schedule an interview with a Metro NY BBB Foundation-NYPAS spokesperson, contact Jessica Grodzki at 212-358-2826.

About the Education and Research Foundation of the BBB of Metropolitan New York
Metro New York’s BBB Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1969. It provides educational programs and services for charities, consumers, and businesses; encourages informed consumer support of charities; promotes charity transparency and accountability; conducts research; and provides educational intern opportunities to students who are potential charity and business leaders. It operates the New York Philanthropic Advisory Service (NYPAS), which reviews charities against the 20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards of Charity Accountability and publishes its reviews of over 850 New York area charities at Charities that meet all of the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability are eligible to participate in its BBB Accredited Charity Seal program. The BBB’s Charity Seal is a quick-check, easy way for donors to recognize charities that meet the BBB’s high standards.