As our local community’s attention and hearts are focused on the tornadoes which killed five and injured dozens in East Texas over the weekend, BBB warns donors to be cautious when donating to disaster relief organizations.
“When we see the horrific results of a natural disaster, we immediately want to make donations to help the victims”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “We want people to remember, however, that scammers will try to take advantage of generous donors, through emails, phone solicitations and crowdfunding sites, so it’s important to make sure you are giving to legitimate organizations before you donate.”
BBB cautions donors to avoid the following mistakes when making disaster relief donations:
MISTAKE # 1: MAKING A DONATION DECISION BASED SOLELY ON CHARITY’S NAME.
Charities ranging from well-known emergency relief organizations to organizations experienced in reconstruction will likely be soliciting for various relief assistance efforts. Make sure the appeal specifies how the charity will help. If it does not, visit the charity’s website. Also, watch out for charity names that include the name of the disaster – it could be a start-up group with little experience or a questionable effort seeking to gain confidence through its title.
MISTAKE # 2: COLLECT CLOTHING AND GOODS WITHOUT VERIFYING THAT ITEMS CAN BE USED.
Unless you have verified that a charity is in need of specific items and has a distribution plan in place, collecting clothing, food and other goods may end up being a wasted effort. Relief organizations often prefer to purchase goods near the location of the disaster to help speed delivery and avoid expensive long distance freight costs. Also, sending non-essential items may actually slow down the charity’s ability to address urgent needs.
MISTAKE # 3: SENDING DONATIONS TO INEXPERIENCED RELIEF EFFORTS
Good intentions alone are not enough to carry out relief activities effectively. If the charity has not previously been involved in disaster relief with tornado victims, this likely will hamper their ability to work well in the affected areas. Experience matters.
MISTAKE # 4: RESPONDING TO APPEALS WITHOUT CHECKING
Don’t let your guard down and let your emotions get the better of you. Resist sending cash, money via wire transfer, or providing any financial information to any solicitation (whether email, phone or text) you did not initiate. Don’t assume that a crowdfunding site, blog, or social media recommendation has been thoroughly vetted.
MISTAKE #5: DONATING WITHOUT DOING YOUR HOMEWORK
Find out if a charity meets recognized accountability standards. If you want assurance that the charity is transparent, accountable, and well managed, see if it meets the BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s 20 “Standards for Charity Accountability” by visiting give.org.
For more tips on how to be a savvy donor, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.