CHICAGO, IL – October 30, 2012 -
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy that hit the
northeastern regions of the U.S., the Better Business Bureau
serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) advises consumers do their research
before making any donations to charities assisting those affected by the storm.
“When we experience natural
disasters, people are eager to help out in any way they can; unfortunately, some
phony charities prey on situations like this,” said Steve J Bernas, President
& CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.
“That is why we urge every consumer to do their research before making any kind
of charitable donations.”
The BBB offers the following
tips to help donors decide where to direct donations to assist hurricane
Be cautious when giving online. Be cautious, especially in response to unsolicited
spam messages, and emails or social media posts 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. In response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita
and the Asian tsunamis, the FBI and others raised concerns about websites and
new organizations that were created overnight, allegedly to help victims.
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. Donors can go to www.bbb.org for free to research charities and
relief organizations and verify that they are accredited by the BBB and 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 hurricane victims, the truth is that the
organization is still probably incurring fundraising 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 give 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.
Never feel forced
to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown charity. For more tips you can
trust, visit www.bbb.org
As a private, non-profit organization,
the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace.
BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation
and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices
and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses
and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or
charity before making a purchase or donation.