Your Money: Give wisely to Hurricane Isaac relief efforts

Ask questions and do your research before giving to a charity. Hurricane Isaac thrashed the Gulf Coast states. Isaac has gone, but charities might soon come to life by asking for donations to support the relief efforts.


The Better Business Bureau offers tips for donors hoping to assist in the relief.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability were developed to assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to foster public confidence in charitable organizations. The standards seek to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations and to advance support of philanthropy.

The BBB recommends the following before you donate:

• Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and e-mails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charitable organization involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s Web site.

• Be wary of imitations. Don’t be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization.

• 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 victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fundraising and administrative expenses. It might use some of its other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.

• Find out whether the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the affected areas. See whether the charity’s Web site clearly describes what it can do to address immediate needs.

Watch out for charities that don’t already have staffers in the affected areas because they might not be able to provide assistance quickly.

• Find out whether the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities raise money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you might 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.

• In-kind drives for food and clothing – though well-intentioned – might not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need, unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

• Be cautious of online or text-message solicitations. Scam organizations with official-looking names can be created overnight. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to that charity’s site.

Avoid giving to charities that:

• Use high-pressure solicitations. A legitimate charity will give you time to fully research its program.

• Offer prizes. Most honest charities do not try to entice you to give by telling you you have won a prize.

• Steer you away from mailing a donation. Dishonest people try to avoid doing anything through the mail to avoid federal prosecution under postal statutes.




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