Whether is it a mass shooting, a natural disaster or a local family suffering a tragedy — when bad things happen, people want to reach out and help. Sadly, scammers often take advantage of these moments of vulnerability to deceive people wanting to donate. In addition, there are often online campaigns set up by well-meaning individuals who may or may not be directly connected to the tragedy. While these individuals may mean well, they may not know how to manage the funds or donations — causing your contribution to be distributed incorrectly.
Today, crowdfunding is one of the most popular ways to help. Unfortunately, these websites do very little vetting of individuals who post — asking for assistance after a tragedy or a disaster. It is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of the people who are asking for support. Also, in respect for victims and their families, those who want to help should get permission from the family before fundraising on their behalf.
When looking for ways to help, watch out for red flags including vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, most people assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. It’s always important the appeal identifies when and how the collected funds will be used.
After money is raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how it was spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out how the money or donations were distributed.
Giving is a personal choice, but an established charity will more likely have the capacity and experience to address an emergency situation quickly as well as a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but may be difficult to check out and may not be well managed. News reports may help identify responding charities but are not a guarantee that the organizations will use donations effectively.
The Better Business Bureau is always willing to help you decide on who to give to. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance is a standards-based charity evaluator that seeks to verify the trustworthiness of nationally-soliciting charities by completing rigorous evaluations based on 20 holistic standards that address charity governance, effectiveness reporting, finances, fundraising, appeal accuracy and other issues. Learn more about the 20 BBB Charity Standards and about local charity review at local Better Business Bureaus at give.org.