The toll from Hurricane Isaac has many people wondering what they can do to help affected residents and businesses put their lives back together. However, before making a donation, Connecticut Better Business Bureau recommends verifying charities to avoid losing money to con artists and ensure your money goes to the victims.
The Red Cross and other established charities have already kicked into disaster recovery mode, and need donations to help with disaster response. BBB advises donors to be cautious because fraudulent charities often crop up to take advantage of Americans’ sympathy for disaster victims.
Donors want to be sure their money goes to well-run relief organizations that are equipped to handle the unique challenges of providing assistance in a disaster zone, and Connecticut BBB has information that can help donors be sure they are contributing to ethical charities.
The best way to help is to donate money to a reputable humanitarian organization with a long history of responding to local, national and international disasters.
Connecticut BBB offers the following tips to help Americans decide where to direct donations:
Rely on respected experts to evaluate a charity - Be cautious about third-party recommendations such as bloggers, because they may not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. BBB provides a Wise Giving Guide to charities at http://www.bbb.org/
Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims - All charities have fund-raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card or text donation will involve at least, a processing fee.
Be cautious when giving online to unfamiliar charities - Be wary of spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. After the tsunami disaster in 2004, the earthquake in Haiti last year and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this year, many websites and organizations that popped-up claiming to help victims turned out to be scams.
Determine if the charity has a presence in the affected areas - Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers into those locations to provide assistance. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what it can do to address immediate needs.
Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups -You may want to avoid the middle man and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Check out the ultimate destination of donations to ensure that the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.
Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations may not be appropriate - Unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid, these kinds of donations may be more of a burden than a help. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief.
For more information about charities or to get a BBB Business Review visit http://www.bbb.org or call 203-269-2700.