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BBB: Chose disaster relief groups wisely

BBB Wise Giving Alliance (Give.org) and the Better Business Bureau advise donors that experienced disaster relief organizations are your best bet to provide emergency help for victims of Hurricane Florence. It’s also important for contributors to ask about what activities their donations will fund.

“This is not amateur hour,” notes Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Give.org has seen crowdfunding posts from individuals claiming to raise funds so they can deliver and distribute water, food, and flashlights to impacted areas. Even if sincere, such efforts may risk lives, complicate access by professional efforts and potentially divert donations that could be directed in more helpful ways.”

“With such a devastating hurricane bearing down on the southeast coast of the United States, emotions are running high,” Taylor said.  “While we all want to help those in harm’s way as soon as we can, donors should watch out for newly created organizations that emerge that are either inexperienced in addressing disasters or may be seeking to deceive donors at a vulnerable time.”

BBB also expects to see price-gougers and “storm chasers” looking to make a quick buck off preparation and clean-up efforts. Consumers can report suspected scams to BBB Scam Tracker or the office of the Attorney General in their state.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance suggests that donors keep the following tips in mind to help avoid questionable appeals for support:

  1. Verify the trustworthiness of soliciting relief organizations by visiting Give.org to access free reports that specify if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
  2. See if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has skilled operations in the affected areas, it may be difficult to provide assistance quickly and effectively. See if the charity’s website or appeal clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate relief needs as well as longer-term recovery needs.
  3. Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or is 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 give directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Appeals for disaster-related donations should clearly state how contributions will be used.
  4. Be cautious about gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well-intentioned, may not be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to hand out such aid properly. Donated goods may impose extra costs on a charity to cover storage and distribution, and also may not meet the most urgent needs.
  5. Understand crowdfunding. While there are resources like Give.org to help vet charities, it is difficult to vet individuals. If you decide to contribute to an individual via crowdfunding, it is safest to give to people you personally know who have posted requests for assistance. Also remember that gifts to help a specific individual generally are not deductible as charitable donations for federal income tax purposes. Also check the terms and conditions of the crowdfunding platform to learn how your donation might be affected.

For tips on avoiding questionable appeals, as well as a list of national BBB Accredited Charities gearing up for hurricane relief efforts, go to Give.org.

The emergency phase of a disaster is just the beginning. Full recovery from a disaster will be a long-term activity that can take many months or years to accomplish, depending on the extent of the damage. Those truly concerned about helping communities bounce back will have many opportunities to help in the future. Follow the link above for a list of BBB Accredited Charities raising funds for Hurricane Florence relief assistance. This list will be updated as additional relief efforts come to BBB WGA’s attention.

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