Ask questions and do your research before giving to a charity.
August 29, 2012 Oakland, CA -- 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.
Before giving your donation, BBB recommends the following:
· Research the organization. Check BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org to get reports on how national charities measure up to BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Confirm the organization is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) and make sure you’re satisfied with the programs and how the money is distributed. According to BBB’s Standards for Charity Accountability:
- At least 65 percent of total expenses should be spent on program activities
- No more than 35 percent of related contributions can be spent on fundraising
- For local charities, ask for an annual report or a 990 IRS form to see a breakdown of where the money is allocated.
In the wake of Hurricane Isaac and other storms threatening coastal regions this season, BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips to help Americans decide where to direct donations to assist hurricane victims:
Be cautious when giving online.
Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to 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. In response to Katrina, 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. The public can go to www.bbb.org/charity 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 fund raising 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 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 Web site 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.
# # # # # # # # # #
About the BBB
The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Reliability ReportsTM on businesses and BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM on charities, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada. Please visit www.goldengate.bbb.org for more information.