Once Hurricane Sandy moves out of the East Coast, thousands – if not millions – of people will start rebuilding their homes, businesses and communities. People from across the country will want to help by donating money to charities. BBB wants to remind you that although these types of disasters bring out the best in people, they can also bring out the worst.
BBB offers the following six tips when choosing where to direct your donations:
Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.
Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. Thanks to BBB Wise Giving, the public can go to bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
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 unless waived under special circumstances.
Be cautious when giving online.
Be wary of spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. With today’s technology, a website can literally be built in an hour mimicking a legitimate charitable organization wanting to scam you out of your money. Scammers can build Facebook pages, claiming they live in an affected area, but they may not necessarily live in the United States, let alone in an area ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. The BBB recommends that you donate to well-established charities that have been properly vetted by the BBB.
Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in impacted areas.
Unless the charity already has staff in the affected 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.
Find out if the charity provides direct aid or raises money for other groups.
Some charities raise money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider avoiding the middleman and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region. At a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.
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 properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those that are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.
For more consumer tips and information, visit wisconsin.bbb.org or call the Wisconsin BBB at 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 920-734-4352 (Appleton).