116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
After a disaster or tragedy, people want to help, and that often means contributing to fundraisers to aid the survivors and families of victims.
Scammers often take advantage of these moments of vulnerability to deceive donors. And sometimes campaigns are set up by well-meaning individuals who may not be able to deliver on promised relief activities.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. Here are some tips:
Thoughtful giving: Visit Give.org to verify if a charity meets the BBB Standards for Charitable Accountability.
Find out how the organization plans to address immediate and long-term needs. Be proactive and find trusted charities.
Crowdfunding: Many crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals posting for assistance after a tragedy or disaster so it can be difficult to verify trustworthiness.
It is safest to contribute to individuals whom you personally know.
How will donations be used? Watch for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. Donors may assume that funds collected quickly will be spent just as quickly.
Endeavor to identify when and how the funds will be used.
Newly created versus established organizations: This is a personal choice, but an established charity will likely have the capacity and experience to address the situation quickly and also have a track record that can be evaluated.
Give money rather than goods: Donating money is the quickest way to help and provides charities the flexibility to channel resources to impacted areas.
Be wary of 100 percent claims: Watch for claims that 100 percent of donations will assist victims and/or their families. The organization probably still is incurring administrative and fundraising expenses, and using other funds to cover costs.
Online caution: Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites, text or email.
You could go to a look-alike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information, or may download harmful malware.
Identify celebrity fundraising plans: Before donating to a celebrity fundraising effort, look beyond the fame.
Identify plans for intended use of funds or whether they are collaborating with a well-established charity.
Financial transparency: After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is important to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites.
Government registration: Most states require registration. In Iowa, contact the Attorney General’s Office at 888-777-4590.
Registration does not equal recommending or endorsing the charity. It does signify the group has filed the required paperwork.
Respect for victims and their families: Organizations or crowdfunding postings raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names and/or any photographs of victims of the disaster or tragedy.
What if a family sets up its own assistance fund? Families might set up their own fund requests and may not be charities.
If funds are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, this could help provide oversight.
Advocacy organizations: Tragedies involving violent acts may generate requests from an advocacy organization.
Note that some advocacy groups are not tax exempt as charities. Newly created groups may be difficult to check.
Tax deductibility: Not all organizations collecting funds are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. You can check a U.S. organization’s tax status with the Internal Revenue Service.
Bobby Hansen is regional director for the Better Business Bureau Cedar Rapids office; (319) 365-1190.