How to Make Your Donation Count the Most

Tornadoes in Hattiesburg and Petal leaves students and residents needing help
January 23, 2017

This past Saturday parts of Mississippi were hit with bad wind, rain, hail, and tornadoes that claimed 4 lives. Hattiesburg and Petal where the hardest hit area, a week after Simpson county was victimized with tornadoes. Over 400 area homes and businesses have been affected, including William Carey University. The cleanup and recovery effort is well on the way, with many victims seeking assistance. Mississippians throughout the state along with churches, relief organizations and MEMA have been assisting victims since Saturday.

Mississippi ranks in the top five in charitable giving nationally and can always be counted on to help whenever disasters strike. Better Business Bureau serving Mississippi advises residents and businesses to be smart when making donations to help those affected by floods. “Unfortunately there are people that try to take advantage of these situations,” says John O’Hara CEO BBB serving Mississippi, “In the past we have seen fake disaster relief funds posted on the internet and using social media to raise money. “People are in need of help and we need all intended donations to reach the true victims” says O’Hara “Residents looking to help need to be aware of these scams hurting the victims in need”.  If you are looking to help there are several organizations donors can give to that are already helping victims. The Salvation Army and American Red Cross have been at the disaster sites from day one and are professional organizations trained in helping out during a disaster. The Greater Pinebelt Foundation has a Pine Belt Community Disaster Fund that was set up a few years ago to help with long term recovery efforts.

Be cautious about giving online, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you are seeking to give to a charitable organization involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.

BBB offers the following guidelines for giving:

  • Be careful when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to BBB Wise Giving Alliance to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by BBB.
  • Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee.
  • Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs. Watch out for charities that don’t already have staff in the affected areas as they may not be able to provide assistance quickly.
  • Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for “other” groups. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region.
  • In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans, and find out what is their greatest need.

Those who wish to donate can do so by using the following information:

American Red Cross by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or

The Salvation Army call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or

The Greater Pinebelt Foundation by calling 601-583-6180 or