The catastrophic flooding and other damage caused by Hurricane Sandy is prompting many people to make donations to charities that can provide relief to victims in New York, New Jersey and other eastern states.
The BBB advises donors to check charities out before giving to be sure the money will benefit those who need it most. Make sure that the organization has people in place who can actually help with storm relief.
BBB Charity Reviews are a great resource for finding organizations who will provide relief without excessive spending on administration or fund-raising. The St. Louis BBB has reviews on hundreds of local charities, and the national Wise Giving Alliance has thousands of reviews of national charities.
The BBB also has seven tips to help you decide where to direct your donations:
- Rely on respected experts to evaluate a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers, because they may not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The BBB provides a Wise Giving Guide to charities at www.bbb.org/charity. The guide shows which charities are accredited by the BBB and whether they meet the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
- Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fund-raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee.
- Be cautious when giving online to unfamiliar charities. Be wary of spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. After the tsunami disaster in 2004 and the earthquake in Haiti two years ago, many websites and organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims turned out to be scams.
- Find out if the charity has a presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers into the area to provide assistance. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what it can do to address immediate needs.
- Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. You may want to avoid the middleman and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Check out the ultimate recipients of the donations to ensure that the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.
- Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations may not be appropriate. Unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid, the donations may be more of a burden than a help. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.
- For more information about charities or to get a BBB Charity Review, check with the BBB at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.