Although we have seen other tragedies and disasters in the past year, the terrorist bombing at the Manchester Arena in England has had a significant emotional impact. Many of those killed or wounded were of such a young age, it somehow magnifies the horror and the outpouring of public concern. This is all the more reason for us to caution donors about fundraising to help Manchester victims and their families and to be mindful of suspicious circumstances that often occur in tragedy-related philanthropy. Bad actors are more likely to strike when emotions run high.
1. Thoughtful Giving. Take the time to check out fundraising to help Manchester victims to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance.
2. Crowdfunding Cautions. Watch out for those seeking to take advantage of high public sympathy by setting up a crowdfunding page that may have no official connection to the family or to any charitable organization. While some crowdfunding sites have procedures to identify questionable efforts, especially after a tragedy, the majority of them do not. Also, crowdfunding sites vary in terms of fees charged for transactions and when funds are made available for the cited cause.
3. Respecting Victims and Their Families. Organizations or individuals raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them.
4. How Will Donations Be Used? Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.
5. What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund? Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for medical expenses, funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs.)
6. Charities can be checked. One of the key advantages of giving to an established charity is there are more opportunities to verify their trustworthiness by visiting Give.org to find out if they meet BBB Charity Standards. Also, keep in mind that a charity needs to be based in the U.S. order to be eligible for contributions that are deductible. Despite this, if you are considering giving to a charity located in England, check the U.K. Charity Commissioners via this link to see if they are registered to solicit in the United Kingdom.
On a separate note, as we approach Memorial Day, we encourage donors to also remember those who gave their lives serving in the military. As with any charity donation, we urge givers to do some research before making the contribution by visiting Give.org. Watch out for name confusion, as many veterans charities include virtually the same words in different order. And, look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and its website. Also be wary of excessive pressure to make an on-the-spot gift.
As part of our Building Trust Video series, we are pleased to provide a video of Melissa Hopson, Vice President of Finance of the Boot Campaign (a BBB Accredited Charity) which provides assistance to veterans, service members and their families across five initiatives - housing, jobs, wellness, urgent assistance and family support.
We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:
Finally, remember to let us know by going to https://www.give.org/ask-us-about-a-charity1/ 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