As they have traditionally responded to disasters throughout the world, Americans will want to do what they can for those impacted by Hurricane Irene. But even when needs are close to home, givers should take steps to assure themselves that their donations will go to legitimate and reputable charities and relief efforts that have the capability to help victims, cautions the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
The BBB Wise giving Alliance offers the following five tips to help Americans decide where to direct donations:
Take time to check out the charity. The best way to avoid being disappointed in helping Flood Relief Charities is to find out more about the charity before making the donation. Unfortunately, most people don’t. Donors should review the charity’s website and go to third party sites such as the BBB Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/charity) to learn more about the charity and verify its accountability.
Identify what stage of relief the charity intends to provide. There are three general stages to flood relief efforts. Find out which stage the charity is intending to address. The Emergency Response stage involves immediate rescue needs and takes place within the first week of the storm or flood. Next, Disaster Relief occurs in the first month and provides clothing and temporary shelter for displaced families. Finally, the Recovery Stage can last over a year and involves clean up, repair and/or rebuilding homes, and other long-term recovery 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 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.
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 that 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting flood 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.
Verify if the charity is registered to solicit donations in your state. Charitable organizations located in Ohio are required to register with the Ohio Attorney General and Ohio Secretary of State. Contact each agency to determine if the soliciting flood relief charity is properly registered. Watch out for newly created entities that do not have a track record and/or experience in providing disaster relief.