BBB Cautions Donors On Hurricane Relief Appeals

Hurricane Katrina, like all natural disasters, is prompting some people to take advantage of America’s eagerness to assist victims, reports the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. Donors should be especially alert to these typical post-disaster situations, the Alliance warns:

        Phone solicitors may seek contributions allegedly on behalf of well-known relief charities without authorization form these organizations. Some of the calls may be cons trying to acquire credit card or other personal information. Ask the caller to send written information before making a donation decision.

        Online giving, increasingly popular, as the tsunami outpouring showed, requires donor alertness. Spam or e-mail messages asking for a contribution may be used in a “phishing” scam, where the message links to a false Web site that looks like the Web site of an established relief charity. This could be another ruse for obtaining credit card or other personal information.

        New charities spring up virtually overnight, promising aid to victims. These groups may have good intentions but lack the means and experience to deliver aid quickly to those in need.

“The BBB Wise Giving Alliance encourages the public to contribute to helpful causes that will assist the families and victims of this hurricane catastrophe,” state Art Taylor, President and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Donors should make certain, however, that the charity is properly registered with appropriate state government agencies, that it describes exactly what it will do to address the needs of victims, and that it is willing to provide written information about its finances and programs.”

“Donors can visit the Web site to access detailed evaluative reports on many of the relief organizations providing assistance,” Taylor notes. “We also encourage other disaster relief organizations providing hurricane assistance to enroll with the Alliance at so that we can evaluate their efforts in relation to the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.”

        If you are unable to contribute at this time, relief charities will welcome your donation next week and next month. Organizations will be addressing a variety of relief activities in the weeks to come, as the needs of victims change.

        People who want to volunteer for work in disaster areas should note that the relief agencies are depending on volunteers who have disaster experience. However, these charities’ offices throughout the country may welcome local volunteers who come to help with routine activities. Some have reported that they desperately need more people to man the phone lines, for example.

        As with all other disaster relief situations, most relief charities prefer financial contributions rather than donated goods. This enables them to purchase needed items near the disaster relief site(s) for easier distribution.

A full list of tips for giving to disaster relief appeals is available at Donors can also access evaluative reports on national charities by visiting, the Web site of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. The national charity reports produced by the Alliance specify if the charity meets the Standards for Charity Accountability which address various charity governance, finances, fund raising, and solicitations issues. Donors are also encouraged to inquire about relief organizations not currently on so that the Alliance can identify additional charities that might be the subject of a future BBB Wise Giving Alliance report.