BBB Advice to Donors on Earthquake Charity Appeals
BBB Advises Donors on How to Vet Haiti Earthquake Charity Appeals
Not All Charities are Equipped to Help and Some Might be Fraudulent, Warns BBB
[January 14, 2010 -- Nashville, TN] -- As immediate relief needs are assessed in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12th, many Americans are looking for ways to help by donating to a charity. The Better Business Bureau warns that---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 is a major natural disaster, be it home 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 Kathlen Calligan, President and CEO of the BBB. "Not only do Americans need to be concerned about avoiding fraud, they also need to make sure their money goes to competent relief organizations that are equipped and experienced to handle the unique challenges of providing assistance."
BBB offers the following six tips to help Americans 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. The public can go to www.bbb.org/charity <http://www.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 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 that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.
Be cautious when giving online.
Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In response to the tsunami disaster in 2004, there were concerns raised about many Web sites and new organizations that were 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 website 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.
may want to consider "avoiding the middleman" and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or, 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 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.
Charities Providing Haiti Earthquake Relief
The list below identifies national charities that are seeking to provide assistance in response to the earthquake in Haiti. This list only includes those charities that meet the BBB Wise Giving Alliance's Standards for Charity Accountability. Click on each of the names to access a BBB charity report on the organization. Further information about other charities is available at http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/
Action Against Hunger
American Friends Service Committee
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
American Jewish World Service
American Red Cross
Brother's Brother Foundation
Catholic Relief Services
Christian Reformed World Relief Committee
Direct Relief International
Episcopal Relief and Development
Food for the Hungry
Friends of the World Food Program
International Medical Corps
Living Water International
Lutheran World Relief
Medical Teams International
Physicians for Peace Foundation
Project Concern International
Save the Children Federation
United States Fund for UNICEF
World Emergency Relief
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The BBB of Middle Tennessee, Inc. was founded in 1961 as a non-profit Tennessee organization serving 38 counties in Middle Tennessee and 7 counties in Southern Kentucky. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada.
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