As Hurricane Sandy churns into the history books, millions of people along the East Coast and down through the Caribbean will be struggling for months, if not years, to return their lives to normal. Everyone who wishes to help those impacted by this catastrophic storm is encouraged to do so. In order to help ensure those donations do the most good, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) provides some tips for donating to relief agencies and charities.

“This deadly storm leaves behind a wide swath of destruction and despair,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Millions of people have been affected, and it’s going to require a lot of assistance – public and private – to get people back on their feet. Still, due diligence is important. You want to be sure the charity you’re supporting has the resources to offer support where it’s most needed.”

The BBB offers the following advice for donors looking to find trustworthy charities:

  • Visit www.bbb.org/charity to research organizations you’re considering supporting.
  • Consider making initial donations to established charities such as The American Red Cross (www.redcross.org/) or other organizations which have vast experience in carrying out relief efforts in the wake of natural disasters.
  • Be aware that while donating via text (through your cell phone carrier) is an easy way to give, funds will likely not be available for relief efforts as quickly as they would be if donations were made directly through the websites of individual charities and relief organizations. In some cases, it can take months for such donations to be received.
  • In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, financial donations are most helpful. When the cleanup and rebuilding phase begins, then clothes and household items are sought. But in the short-term, basic needs such as food and shelter come first.
  • Be sure that the charity is well-positioned to provide assistance in the affected regions. However well-intentioned they might be, not every charity has the infrastructure in place to be able to effectively deliver aid to those most in need.
  • Don’t give your credit card number or other personal information to a telephone solicitor or in response to an e-mail solicitation.
  • Don’t give in to excessive pressure for on-the-spot donations. Be especially wary of any offer to send a “runner” to pick up your contribution.
  • Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs.
  • Don’t give cash. Checks or money orders should be made out to the name of the charitable organization, not to the individual collecting the donation.
  • Beware of fake charities that imitate the name and style of well-known organizations in an attempt to confuse donors.
  • Watch out for appeals that are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity will do to address the needs of victims and their families.
  • Make sure your contribution is tax deductible: donations should be made to charitable organizations that are tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Go to IRS Publication 78 on the IRS’ website for a current list of all organizations eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable gifts.

For additional information you can trust when making giving decisions, or to view BBB Wise Giving Reports on charities across the nation, start with www.give.org.

The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. Our hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 800-646-6222. Visit our Centennial website at bbbis100.org.

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