DAYTON, OHIO, January 13, 2010 - As immediate relief needs are assessed in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, many Americans are looking for ways to help by donating to charities. Your Better Business Bureau warns—as occurred following the Tsunami in 2004 and Katrina in 2005—fraudulent charities will likely emerge to try and scam donations from well-meaning Americans.
"Whenever there’s a major natural disaster, locally or abroad, there are two things you can count on. The first is the generosity of Americans to donate time and money to help victims and the second is the appearance of poorly run and, in some cases, fraudulent charities," said John North, BBB president and CEO. "Not only do you need to be concerned about avoiding fraud, you also need to make sure your money goes to competent relief organizations equipped and experienced to handle the unique challenges of providing assistance."
Your BBB offers the following six tips to help you decide where to direct 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 Web sites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. You can go to www.bbb.org to research charities and relief organizations to verify they’re Accredited by your BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
Be wary of claims 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what organizations might claim, charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is the organization is still probably incurring fundraising and administrative expenses. They may use other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.
Be cautious when giving online, especially in response to spam messages and e-mails claiming to link to relief organizations. In response to the Tsunami disaster in 2004, there were concerns raised about many Web sites and new organizations created overnight allegedly to help victims.
Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the effected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers to quickly provide assistance. See if the charity’s Web site clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs.
Find out 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 charities with a presence in the region. Or, 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 be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.
Contact your BBB for more information on charitable appeals. Visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.
About Your BBB Serving Dayton and the Miami Valley
Your BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses earning BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. Your BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your 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, 126 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring nearly 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Your BBB serving Dayton and the Miami Valley serves Montgomery, Greene, Clark, Darke, Miami, Preble, Shelby and northern Warren counties. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about your BBB.