Check the Facts When Donating to Philippines Relief Efforts

November 11, 2013
Better Business Bureau Serving Central Virginia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 11, 2013
CONTACTS: Tom Gallagher--804-648-0030 or 804-399-5007 (cell)
Paula Stallard—804-521-6968 of 804-221-5562 (cell)
BBB Advises: Check the Facts When Donating to
Philippines Relief Efforts
Richmond, VA – In the wake of the devastation in the Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan,
Better Business Bureau serving Central Virginia cautions donors about potential red flags
concerning tragedy-related philanthropy. BBB recommends donors avoid giving to charities
or funds through unsolicited phone calls, emails, texts or social media appeals. “Be on the
lookout for questionable solicitors and scammers who will try to take advantage of
consumers’ empathy for survivors in the Philippines,” advises Tom Gallagher, President and
CEO of BBB Serving Central Virginia. “Call BBB or check before you donate.”
BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers ten tips to educate donors, avoid problem appeals, and give
with confidence. BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid
those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. Here are “Ten Tips for Giving
with Confidence” –
1. Thoughtful Giving - Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your
generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a
donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are
providing assistance.
2. State Government Registration - About 40 of the 50 states require charities to
register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s
office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a
significant red flag.
3. Respecting Victims and Their Families - Organizations raising funds should get
permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs
of them.
4. How Will Donations Be Used? - Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the
intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also,
unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a
tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds
will be used.
5. What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund? - Some families may decide to
set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as
charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third
party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the
collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for counseling, medical treatment and
other needs.)
6. Advocacy Organizations - Tragedies that involve violent acts with firearms can also
generate requests from a variety of advocacy organizations that address gun use. Donors
can support these efforts as well, but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax
exempt as charities. Also, watch out for newly created advocacy groups that will be difficult
to check out.
7. Online Cautions - Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or
emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide
personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into
your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other
social media have already been vetted.
8. Financial Transparency - After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more
important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent
organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and
not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.
9. Newly Created or Established Organizations - This is a personal giving choice, but
an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the
circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization
may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.
10. Tax Deductibility - Not all organizations collecting funds to assist these victims are tax
exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can
support these other entities but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for
federal income tax purposes.
You can check out a business or charity’s review at or call 804-648-0030.
BBB serving Central Virginia serves Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Richmond and Tri-Cities,
as well as 42 surrounding counties, from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to
Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest
and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation
of business. Core services of BBB include business reliability reports, dispute resolution,
truth-in advertising, consumer and business education and charity review.