As the first first major hurricane to hit the Coastal Bend since Celia in 1970, Harvey has left thousands of people in need. The images of destruction are, at times, overwhelming.
As is generally the case with folks in Texas following a disaster, neighbors immediately turn their attention to how they may best help one another. The Better Business Bureau offers the following reminders for making decisions about where to direct donations to assist hurricane victims:
Be prudent when it comes to evaluating a charity.
Relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other Web sites may not always be wise, as they may not have fully researched the relief organizations they list. The public can go to www.give.org to research charities and relief organizations and verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
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 Web site. In response to Katrina, Rita and the Asian tsunamis of several years ago, the FBI and others raised concerns about Web sites and new organizations that were created overnight, allegedly to help victims.
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.
Some answers to seek before donating to any charitable organization might include:
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.
Find out if gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations are best.
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.
Got a question for the BBB? Contact Regional Director Kelly Trevino at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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