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Better Business Bureau urges donor caution after tornadoes

by jmaloni

Press release

Fri, May 24th 2013 06:45 pm

BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers tips on disaster giving

In the wake of the devastating tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma, and in north Texas last week, Better Business Bureau and BBB Wise Giving Alliance have issued tips to help donors make smart giving decisions and to avoid scams.

"After every natural disaster and manmade catastrophe, we see an outpouring of generosity, along with the inevitable scams and frauds," said Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. "We urge donors to take the time to make sure their donations are going to legitimate charities that can do the most good for those in need."

"BBB Oklahoma City is so grateful for the immediate response from people all across the country," said Kitt Letcher, the brand new president and CEO of BBB of Central Oklahoma. "We will be keeping a close eye on the situation in order to prevent, as much as possible, scams related to charity relief, as well as restoration and rebuilding services."

BBB Wise Giving Alliance is offering the following tips to help donors decide where to direct donations to assist victims,

Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to unsolicited spam messages, and emails and social media posts that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity's website. In response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the Asian tsunamis, the FBI and others raised concerns about websites and new organizations that were created overnight, allegedly to help victims.

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 may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. The public can go to www.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations and verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the "20 Standards for Charity Accountability."

Look for experience when considering mobile gifts. BBB Mobile Giving Foundation is part of HelpBridge, a mobile app that helps family and friends stay in touch during a disaster, and assists in donations to qualified relief organizations. The HelpBridge app is free and available on iOS, Android and Windows. BBB Mobile Giving Foundation offers opportunities to "text to give" to charities actively operating on-the-ground in Oklahoma and Texas.

BBB offers the following tips on giving through text:

Confirm the number directly with the source. While BBB Wise Giving Alliance has not yet heard of any scams relying on text message donations, this emerging method for donating is ripe for exploitation by scammers.

Be aware that text donations are not immediate. Depending on the text message service used by the charity, text donations can take anywhere from 30-90 days to be transferred to the designated charity. If you would like the donation to be received immediately by the charity, you can give online through the charity website, by calling the charity directly or by sending a check in the mail.

Review the fine print. When you give to a charity through text message, you might also be signing yourself up to receive text message updates from the charity in the future. A charity should include the details of its text campaign on its website so you can see what you're signing up and how you can opt out.

Research the charity. Giving wisely to a charity isn't just about making sure that the solicitation isn't coming from scammers. Wise donors make sure their donations are going to charities that are best equipped to help in the relief efforts and responsibly use the money for its intended purpose.

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 disaster victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fundraising and administrative expenses. It may use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity's website clearly describes what the charity 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 those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively.

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 distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

Additional Resources: BBB Wise Giving Alliance is asking anyone who receives a suspicious charitable solicitation to report it to BBB Report a Scam.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance produces reports on more than 1,200 nationally soliciting charitable organizations, and local BBBs report on another 10,000 local and regional charities. BBB Wise Giving Alliance does not rank charities, but rather seeks to assist donors in making informed judgments by providing objective evaluations of national charities based on 20 standards that address charity governance, finances, fundraising, appeal accuracy and other issues. The outcomes of the evaluations are available online at give.org. BBB Wise Giving Alliance is an affiliate of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

BBB Mobile Giving Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping other non-profits raise funds through mobile. BBB MGF works with North American cellular phone operators who enable this mobile giving service on a no-cost basis; donations go entirely to the recipient charities for use in responding to individual disasters and to meeting their missions. For more information, go to www.mobilegiving.org.

For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB has business reviews on more than 4 million companies and charity reviews on 11,000 charities, all available for free. More than 100 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews and BBB Wise Giving Reports annually to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit bbb.org for more information.

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