Upstate New Yorkers seeing the devastation wreaked byrecent tornadoes may react with generous gifts of time and money, as many havetraditionally responded to disasters throughout the world. But even when needsare close to home, givers should take steps to assure themselves that theirdonations will go to legitimate and reputable charities and relief efforts thathave the capability to help victims, cautions the Better Business Bureau WiseGiving Alliance.
"Despite long experience in giving for major naturaldisasters, and with the desire to quickly help those in need, people sometimesforget to heed advice that's relevant to all charitable giving," says ArtTaylor, President and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. "In the presentsituation, BBB advises donors especially to learn about what individualcharities are doing and the time frame of their work. Donors who know what toexpect from the charities they support are less likely to question the benefitof their gifts."
BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following five tips tohelp Americans decide where to direct donations:
Take time to check out the charity. The best way to avoid beingdisappointed in helping Storm Relief Charities is to find out more about thecharity before making the donation. Unfortunately, most people don't. Donorsshould review the charity's website and go to third party sites such as the BBBWise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/charity) to learn more about the charity andverify its accountability.
Identify what stage of relief the charity intendsto provide.There are three general stages to relief efforts. Find out which stage thecharity is intending to address. The Emergency Response stage involvesimmediate assistance and rescue needs and takes place within the first daysafter the storm. Next, Disaster Relief occurs in the first month and providesclothing and temporary shelter for displaced families. Finally, the RecoveryStage can last over a year and involves clean up, repair and/or rebuildinghomes, and other long-term recovery needs.
Find out if the charity is providing direct aid orraising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along torelief organizations. If so, you may want to consider "avoiding themiddleman" and giving directly to charities that have a presence in theregion. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donationsto ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.
Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donationswill assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities havefund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation willinvolve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims that 100 percentof collected funds will be assisting disaster victims, the truth is that theorganization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses.They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will stillbe incurred.
Verify if the charity is registered to solicitdonations in your state. Most states require charities to register with a stateagency (usually the Attorney General's office or the Secretary of State'soffice) in order to solicit charitable contributions. Contact your appropriatestate agency to determine if the soliciting disaster relief charity is properlyregistered. Watch out for newly created entities that do not have a trackrecord and/or experience in providing disaster relief.
The BBB recognizes mobilegiving as a critical tool for charities to raise much-needed funds, especiallywhen disaster strikes. In order to give donors the most trustworthy and safeoption for quick “text to give” donations, the BBB Wise GivingAlliance recently joined forces with MobileGiving Foundation to create the BBB Mobile Giving Foundation, aco-branded effort to grow the mobile giving channel, strengthen mobile givingindustry standards and accountability, assure donor confidence, and reinforcenonprofit acceptance of the mobile giving medium. If you are considering amobile gift the BBB advises donors to indentify a charity with a proven trackrecord of successfully using ‘text to give’ channels.