March 15, 2017

Wise Giving Wednesday: Fundraising Photos

Several days ago, a CBS story reported that a couple in New York was arrested for allegedly using social media and other communications to defraud donors by raising money using a picture of a boy fighting cancer.  This reminds all of us of the need to be vigilant in verifying charitable requests before making a gift.  Sometimes photographs can stir our sympathetic emotions to get us to contribute without ensuring that our generosity will indeed be used for the purpose identified. 

It also points to the advantages of contributing to an established charity, as opposed to an individual seeking help.  A charity can be vetted in terms of (1) its proper registration with state government authorities (about 40 of the 50 states in the U.S. have such state agencies which are usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office or the Secretary of State) and (2) by visiting to verify if they meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.  However, it is much more difficult to determine if an individual posting a personal financial request is telling the truth. 

In terms of phony requests for help, the public needs to be especially careful after a disaster or tragedy when people may be using names and photos of victims without the families’ permission. And when visiting crowdfunding websites, remember that not all sites operate in the same way in terms of how much checking takes place before people post requests for help.   

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but the false use of a photo might be summed up in one word: con. 

On a separate note, as part of our Building Trust Video series, we are pleased to provide a video of Dorothy Poppe, Executive Director, Chiari & Syringomyelia Foundation (a BBB Accredited Charity) which seeks to advance knowledge through research and to educate the medical, allied sciences, and lay community about Chiari malformation, syringomyelia and related disorders. 

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include: 

Finally, remember to let us know by going to if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.   

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance