May 10, 2017

Wise Giving Wednesday: Mississippi Flooding

The images are familiar but heart wrenching, a small motor boat glides over waist high waters, passes devastated homes and the roofs of enveloped cars.  Several days ago, areas near the Mississippi River suffered from major flooding and weather forecasters expect that water will continue to be at high levels until mid-May.  Communities in southern Illinois and those south of the St. Louis area were especially impacted including parts of Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. 

The Arkansas Attorney General’s office issued a warning to donors to watch out for con artists raising funds for flood damaged areas. BBB’s agrees with this advice and also encourages those who want to help flood victims to turn to established charities that have experience, facilities, and procedures in place to deal with such tragedies. We suggest that donors keep the following tips in mind as well to help avoid questionable appeals for support:  

See if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what the charity can do to address immediate needs. 

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or 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 giving directly to those that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to see whether they are equipped to provide aid effectively. 

Be Cautious about gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance. 

Understand crowdfunding. Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support.   

As part of our Building Trust Video series, we are pleased to provide a video of Jennifer Devin Hibbard, Executive Director, BeadforLife (a BBB Accredited Charity) which provides opportunities for women living in extreme poverty to start self-sustaining small businesses. The organization reports that it creates chances for women all over the world to fight extreme poverty through the wearing and sharing of its handmade products. 

Learn about the #AdvancingCollaboration series, a partnership between BBB’s and Stanford Social Innovation Review. Read articles from charity leaders about collaborating to reach common goals and then take the pledge to commit to #AdvancingCollaboration as either a donor or a charity.

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