BBB Advises Donors on How to Vet Haiti Earthquake Charity Appeals

April 09, 2010

BBB Advises Donors on How to Vet Haiti Earthquake Charity Appeals

Not All Charities are Equipped to Help and Some Might be Fraudulent, Warns the BBB

Jan 13, 2009 - London, Ontario – As immediate relief needs are assessed in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, many Canadians will be looking for ways to help the victims. The Better Business Bureau warns that fraudulent charities will likely emerge to try and scam donations from well meaning donors.

“Whenever there is a major natural disaster, be it at home or abroad, there are two things you can count on. The first is the generosity of Canadians, and the second is the appearance of poorly run and in some cases fraudulent charities” said Jan Delaney, President BBB Western Ontario. “Donors also need to be concerned about making sure that their money goes to competent relief organizations that are equipped and experienced to handle the unique challenges of providing assistance”

BBB offer the following tips to help donors decide where to direct donations:

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted area.
Unless the charity already has staff in the effected 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.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations
Some charities or individuals may start IN-kind drives for food and clothing. While well intentioned this may not be the most effective way to help those in need. Find out if the organization has the staff, infrastructure and connections to be able to properly distribute such aid.

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 to research many charities and verify that they meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be cautious when giving online
Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In this as in many other types of Internet fraud new organizations can set up a Web site overnight to allegedly help victims.

Find out if 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 the charities that have a presence in the region.