Peoria, IL – November 20, 2013. The tornadoes that struck Central Illinois
this past weekend have gained worldwide attention. Generous donors wishing to
help the victims are being cautioned by Better Business Bureau to confirm the
legitimacy of all charitable fundraising and crowdfunding efforts.
“A tragedy of this
nature that is the focus of high profile media attention inspires people to
give,” says Jessica Tharp, Vice President of BBB Heart of Illinois, “but,
unfortunately, also catches the attention of scammers who try to take advantage
of well-meaning generosity.”
BBB Wise Giving
Alliance has seen charity scams following all recent natural disasters and
manmade tragedies, and encourages donors to balance their generosity with
thoughtfulness and research. “Try to avoid making emotional giving decisions,”
says H. Art Taylor, President and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, “The
first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Check with the BBB to
help avoid questionable fundraising efforts.”
BBB also reminds
consumers that donations made through crowdfunding websites are usually
considered gifts to the recipients and are not tax deductible unless the group
receiving the funds is a 501(c)(3) organization as designated by the Internal
BBB urges consumers to
make wise choices with their donations:
- Respond thoughtfully. Take
the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by
donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for
a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted
charities that are providing assistance.
- Respect the victims and their families. Organizations raising
funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of
the victims and/or any photographs of them. For example: some charities
raising funds for the Colorado movie theater and Newtown school victims
did not do this and were the subject of criticism from victims’ families.
- Registration confirmation. About
40 of the 50 states require charities to register with a state government
agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before
they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that
may be a significant red flag.
- Results should be shared. After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even
more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds
were spent. Transparent organizations and/or individuals will post this
information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to
wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the
- Retail sale disclosures. If any items are being sold (such as t-shirts,
etc.) in the context that their sales will benefit the victims, look for a
disclosure that states the actual or anticipated amount of the purchase
that will benefit the a specified charity and, if applicable, any minimums
or maximums being raised (e.g. up to $100,000) as well as campaign term
limits (e.g. during the month of November).
- Remember Online Giving Cautions. Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar
websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website
where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to
click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer.
Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other
social media have already been vetted.
Also, websites that enable individuals to
raise funds (known as crowdfunding sites) can be established very quickly but
may not have oversight procedures in place to ensure that funds will be used as
promised (for example, establishing a CPA, bank or other respected third party
to receive collected donations and help distribute funds to victims).
- Review BBB Charity Reports. Find out if the subject charity meets the 20 BBB
Standards for Charity Accountability. Visit give.org for
reports on nationally soliciting charities and bbb.org for
information on regionally soliciting organizations.
years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses,
brands and charities they can trust. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 116 BBBs
serve communities across the U.S. and Canada. BBB provides objective advice,
educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust and free business
reviews and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM on more than 4 million
local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org or call
309-688-5124 for more information.