BBB: Disaster donating tips

Posted at 3:30 PM, Oct 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-02 16:30:31-04

In the wake of recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Florence and the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, many people want to help in any way possible, but it can be difficult to know where your donations should go.

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau to keep in mind for those wanting to help victims of these disasters.

First, check if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has skilled operations in the affected areas, it may be difficult to provide aid quickly and effectively.  Also, find out if the charity is providing direct aid or is 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 charities that have a presence in the region. And be cautious about gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well-intentioned, may not be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to hand out such aid properly.

Donated goods may impose extra costs on a charity to cover storage and distribution and may not meet the most urgent needs.

Crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe are increasingly popular. Here’s some advice for those websites:

– While there are resources like to help vet charities, it is difficult to vet individuals.

– If you decide to contribute to an individual via crowdfunding, it is safest to give to people you personally know who have posted requests for assistance.

– Also remember that gifts to help a specific individual generally are not deductible as charitable donations for federal income tax purposes.

Social media platforms are also places where people can donate. The BBB always recommends using an established Accredited Charity as they have the infrastructure and goodwill to get donations where they need to go.

To find a list of Accredited Charities visit, Accredited charities must meet 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Those standards include the overall effectiveness of the charity’s mission to how the money is allocated.