Tips on Storm Relief Donations

March 05, 2012


In the wake of severe storms that came through the Midwest and South, the BBB offers the following tips to help Americans decide where to direct donations to assist storm victims and their families:

Be cautious when giving online.

Be cautious about online giving. Do not respond to spam messages and avoid clicking on links in unsolicited text messages or 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 website.

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

Becareful 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 to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. 


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

See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs. Look for charities that already have existing capacity to aid storm victims directly in affected areas. Charities that do not already have an established ability to serve the area may not be able to provide assistance quickly.


Check to see whether 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 provide aid effectively.


Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations.

In-kind drives for food and clothing—while well intentioned— may not be the quickest way to help those in need, even if the relief 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 wary of claims that 100 percent 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 charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fundraising and administrative expenses.  They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.