As of last week, Hurricane Isaac had claimed dozens of lives in the Caribbean, several deaths had been reported in the Gulf Coast region of the United States, and initial property damage estimates exceeded $1.5 billion. Each year businesses and consumers in our region contribute generously of their time and resources to hurricane relief, whether the affects have been felt in Central Virginia, elsewhere in the country, or abroad. Late last week the BBB Wise Giving Alliance issued a press release offering tips to donors wishing to contribute to the victims of Hurricane Isaac, and other as-yet unnamed storms that could cause further damage before the end of the 2012 hurricane season.
Wise Giving encourages donors to be wary of online donations, especially those solicited through unsolicited emails. In the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Southeast Asian tsunamis, the FBI and numerous charity watchdog groups noted that new “relief” organizations proliferated literally overnight on the internet. If you are interested in donating to a relief organization online, go directly to their website rather than responding to what could be an email fraudulently using the name of a reputable charity.
Verifying details about any relief organization before making a donation is another recommended step. Wise Giving reminds donors, among other things, to find out if an organization is providing direct aid or acting as a pass-through organization. A gift directly to a charity with a presence in the affected area may help bring relief to victims more quickly. Also, carefully consider requests for in-kind donations of food and clothing. Before donating goods, ask the organization about their transportation and distribution capabilities. Food and clothing are always desperately needed after wide-spread flooding and electrical outages, and are most effective when an organization is adequately prepared to distribute them.
The full Wise Giving Hurricane Isaac press release includes additional information and tips. As always, check out BBB’s national and local charity reports and the giving tips available on our website when considering any donation. Relief will be desperately needed in the wake of Hurricane Isaac; appeals will be coming from reputable, well-equipped charities, and from scam artists posing as such. Please use our Charity Information Service to research charities and relief organizations and verify that they are Accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. This service, supported by Accredited Businesses and Charity Seal Holders, is provided to help you make more informed giving decisions for your business and personal philanthropy.