Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – May 22, 2013 - In the wake of recent devastating tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma and north Texas, your Better Business Bureau and BBB Wise Giving Alliance are providing tips for donors to avoid scams and make wise giving decisions.
“After a natural disaster, especially one of this magnitude, consumers and businesses are drawn to join relief efforts and assist victims and their families,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “Unfortunately, such tragedies are seen as opportunities by scammers to create false charities, websites and appeals to capitalize on the generosity of others. Turning to BBB and doing research before making a donation can help donors ensure their money is benefitting a trustworthy charity.”
BBB is offering the following advice to aid donors in avoiding scams:
- Research the charity. Check with BBB Wise Giving Alliance to see if a national charity meets its 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. These standards seek to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations and advance support of philanthropy. Donors can also check to see if a charity is registered with the PA Bureau of Charitable Organizations’ online database of charities. Be careful when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or forums, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list.
- Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to unsolicited spam messages, emails and social media posts that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website. In response to previous tragedies and natural disasters, the FBI and others raised concerns about websites and new organizations that were created overnight, allegedly to help victims.
- 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. If a charity claims that 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting disaster victims, it is likely the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. It may use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred. You have the right to request a copy of a charity’s financial statement or 990 IRS Form to verify how they spend your donation. Go to www.guidestar.org to search for a charity’s 990 IRS Form.
- Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs.
- Ask 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 those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.
- Think twice about gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. 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 distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.
- Don’t succumb to high-pressure, emotional pitches. Giving on the spot is never necessary, no matter how hard a telemarketer or solicitor pushes it. A charity that can use your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow. Watch out for appeals that bring tears to your eyes, but tell you nothing about how your donation will be used.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance is asking anyone who receives a suspicious charitable solicitation to report it to BBB Report a Scam. In addition, BBB Mobile Giving Foundation offers opportunities to “text to give” to charities actively operating on-the-ground in Oklahoma and Texas. BBB Mobile Giving Foundation also is a part of HelpBridge, a mobile app that helps family and friends stay in touch during a disaster, and assists in donations to qualified relief organizations. The HelpBridge app is free and available on iOS, Android and Windows.
ABOUT BBB WISE GIVING ALLIANCE: BBB Wise Giving Alliance produces reports on over 1,200 nationally soliciting charitable organizations, and local BBBs report on another 10,000 local and regional charities. BBB Wise Giving Alliance does not rank charities but rather seeks to assist donors in making informed judgments by providing objective evaluations of national charities based on 20 standards that address charity governance, finances, fund raising, appeal accuracy, and other issues. The outcomes of the evaluations are available online at give.org. BBB Wise Giving Alliance is an affiliate of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
ABOUT BBB MOBILE GIVING FOUNDATION: BBB Mobile Giving Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping other non-profits raise funds through mobile. BBB MGF works with North American cellular phone operators who enable this mobile giving service on a no cost basis; donations go entirely to the recipient charities for use in responding to individual disasters and to meeting their missions. For more information, go to mobilegiving.org.
ABOUT THE BBB SYSTEM
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews and BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 114 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.