Q: I would like to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Does the BBB have any tips on how to make sure my donation goes to where it is most needed?
A: As the public's attention and hearts are focused on the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, BBB Wise Giving Alliance advises donors to take steps to avoid being taken by questionable solicitors or wasting their money on poorly managed relief efforts. The typhoon that hit the Philippines over the past weekend, described as the most powerful in the world this year, has destroyed an entire town. More than 2,500 are feared dead.
Be sure to use common sense before donating to ensure that your donation will be put to the best use. Many times when a disaster strikes, we want to help quickly. But be sure to do your due diligence before handing in-kind items or money to a particular charity. Research how long the charity has been operating, what experience they have with disasters, what kind of donations they are accepting, and how they plan to use those donations. Donors who know what to expect from the charities they support are less likely to question the benefit of their gifts.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance cautions donors to avoid the following five giving mistakes when making disaster relief donations:
Mistake No. 1: Making a donation decision based solely on a charity's name.
Charities ranging from well-known emergency relief organizations to organizations experienced in reconstruction will likely be soliciting for various relief assistance efforts. Make sure the appeal specifies how the charity will help. If it does not, visit the charity's website. Also, watch out for charity names that include the name of the disaster - it could be a start-up group with little experience or a questionable effort seeking to gain confidence through its title.
Mistake No. 2: Collect clothing and goods without verifyng that items can be used.
Unless you have verified that a charity is in need of specific items and has a distribution plan in place, collecting clothing, food and other goods may end up being a wasted effort. Relief organizations often prefer to purchase goods near the location of the disaster to help speed delivery and avoid expensive long distance freight costs. Also, sending non-essential items may actually slow down the charity's ability to address urgent needs.
Mistake No. 3: Sending donations to inexperienced relief efforts.
Good intentions alone are not enough to carry out relief activities effectively. If the charity has not previously been involved in disaster relief, or does not have experience in assisting the overseas nation(s) that have been impacted, this likely will hamper their ability to work well in the affected areas.
Mistake No. 4: Responding to online and social media appears without checking.
Don't let your guard down just because the appeal is online. Don't assume that since a third-party blog, website or friend recommended a relief charity that it has been thoroughly vetted. Check out the charity's website on your own.
Mistake No. 5: Donating without doing your homework.
Find out if a charity meets recognized accountability standards. If you want assurance that the charity is transparent, accountable, and well managed, see if it meets the BBB Wise Giving Alliance's 20 "Standards for Charity Accountability" by visiting give.org.
The following 25 organizations are BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., meet all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability) that have announced on their website that they are accepting donations for typhoon relief activities. Donors are encouraged to visit the charities' websites to find out more about the nature of the assistance they are providing. Some are engaged in immediate relief while others are focused on longer term recovery efforts. This list does not include all of the charities involved in typhoon relief. Visit give.org if the organization you are considering is not on this list.
• Adventist Development and Relief Agency International
• AmeriCares Foundation
• American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
• American Red Cross
• Catholic Relief Services
• ChildFund International
• Children International
• Direct Relief International
• Episcopal Relief and Development
• Feed The Children
• GlobalGIving Foundation
• Habitat for Humanity International
• Heifer International
• International Medical Corps
• Lutheran World Relief
• MAP International
• Mercy Corps
• Operation USA
• Oxfam America
• Plan International USA
• Save the Children Federation
• The Salvation Army
• United States Fund for UNICEF
• World Food Program USA
• World Vision
About BBB Wise Giving Alliance: BBB Wise Giving Alliance produces reports on over 1,300 nationally soliciting charitable organizations. BBB Wise Giving Alliance does not rank charities but rather seeks to assist donors in making informed judgments by providing objective evaluations of national charities based on 20 strict standards. The outcomes of the evaluations are available online at give.org. BBB Wise Giving Alliance is an affiliate of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.