Houston, TX who has been in the crosshairs of hurricane and tropical storm conditions with no end in sight. Every disaster has several phases – rescue, emergency relief, and recovery, and though Houston is still in the thick of things, each part will rely on public support and continuing funding for success.
The need for donations doesn’t stop when the headlines do so we encourage providing support to those affected in Texas, but BBB is warning consumers to be cautious and donate wisely through this process.
Knowing the Rules of Crowdfunding Efforts
Sites like IndieGoGo and GoFundMe are sources of many new fund-raisers that popped up after Harvey, offering many ways for donors to give to Harvey related causes. In theory, having a bunch of people chip in to help a cause is a great idea, but many crowdfunding efforts are poorly organized or are setup by concerned citizens and not actual organizations.
It is also very important to note the very clear rules of crowdfunding before giving. For instance, GoFundMe's stance on refunds is that "since all donations are immediately available to the Campaign Organizer and may have already been withdrawn," the money may already have been spent and the donor must contact the Campaign Organizer (and not GoFundMe) for a refund of their donations. IndieGoGo has a very similar setup and refund policy.
Bobby Whithorne, a spokesman for GoFundMe, said that if a specific campaign is raising questions, “report the campaign directly to GoFundMe by clicking ‘Report Campaign’ on the GoFundMe campaign page or, report your concerns to the state Consumer Protection Hotline.”
Always Be Wary of New Charities and Organizations
You'll see more and more charities, groups, and organizations start popping up after a disaster, and though most are genuinely trying to help, newer organizations are typically not very organized. Research before you donate to verify an organization's track record with relief efforts.
“Be wary of charities that spring up too suddenly in response to current events and natural disasters,” the F.T.C. website says. “Even if they are legitimate, they probably don’t have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected area or people.”
Also make sure to find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. If they are raising money for other groups, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region.
If you or a loved one has been affected by severe weather in Texas, research and give to trustworthy organizations, and rely on local Accredited Businesses to help with repair and relief efforts. If you come across a relief effort scam or fraud, report it to BBB's Scam Tracker so we may investigate further and inform the general public.