From the Better Business Bureau
When an unfamiliar organization asks you to make a donation, don’t be too quick to make a decision. Instead, plan your giving and always demand accountability of the charities receiving your gift. If you are in doubt, check out the organization with your Better Business Bureau.
Most solicitations take place over the telephone, through the mail, door-to-door, over the Internet, or on the street. You have time to “think” when you receive a charitable appeal by mail. But there usually isn’t time to think when the doorbell or telephone rings or when the street solicitor holds out the hat.
Remember to give, but give wisely. The BBB offers the following tips and warning signs:
• Clear program description – Look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and on its website or printed materials.
• Mistaken identity – Watch out for name confusion. Many charities include virtually the same words in different order or slightly different form. Be sure to verify the nonprofit’s full name and address.
• Telemarketing cautions – Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information on the charity’s programs and finances before making a decision.
• On-the-spot donation decisions – Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.
• Check with outside sources before giving – Visit Give.org to check out a charity’s trustworthiness by verifying if it meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Also check with the Ohio Attorney General’s office to see if the organization is registered.
• Know how donations will be used – Make sure the description of the intended monies are detailed for where they will be used. Watch out for vague appeals that are not relating to the intended purpose of the funds.
• Do not click on unfamiliar links – Clicking on unfamiliar links can lead you to look-a-like websites that will ask you to provide financial information or to click on another link that will download harmful malware into your computer.
• Be cautious when giving online – Be cautious about spam messages and emails 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.
• 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 http://www.give.org to research relief organizations and other charities to verify that they are accredited by the BBB which means they meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
• 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 earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising 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.