December 13, 2017

Wise Giving Wednesday: Helping Victims of California Wildfires

At the time this blog is being written, the wildfires in Southern California continue to spread, although the wind is reporting to decrease somewhat. CNN reports that a 1,000 homes and other structures have been lost to the blaze and the fire warnings now cover an area that impact 1 million residents. 

2017 has seen its share of hurricanes, floods, mass shootings, earthquakes and other disasters and tragedies. It’s hard to keep track of them all.  The outpouring of public concern and generosity has been extraordinary. For some reason, however, fires don’t receive as much fundraising response as some of the other disasters. A small number (compared to earlier disasters) of nationally-soliciting relief organizations have referenced activities on their websites that describe efforts to help those in need in California. From what we have seen, most of the appeal activity involves more regional charities and/or crowdfunding campaigns to assist specific families. 

BBB’s, nevertheless, reminds donors to give thoughtfully to avoid questionable solicitation efforts. 

  • Crowdfunding cautions. If you are considering donating to a crowdfunding posting raising money for a victim of the California fires, it is safest to give to families or individuals that you know personally. Not all crowdfunding sites have sufficient procedures to verify the accuracy of postings. 
  • Charity appeals should specify funded activities.  Be wary of relief appeals from charities that have vague program descriptions and do not identify what activities will be funded through the money raised. 
  • Watch out for click-bait or phishing scams. Online giving scams tend to pop up after a disaster or tragedy to take advantage of public sympathy. Don’t click on links in email, text, or social media messages promising to connect you to familiar charities; go to the website of these groups on your own. 
  • Registered to solicit?  Most states require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the either the Office of the Attorney General or Secretary of State) before they can solicit for contributions. Visit the applicable government agency’s website to find out more. 

Before this blog comes to a close, we want to acknowledge that this is the 150th entry for Wise Giving Wednesday.  We covered a lot of ground on a variety of charity topics these past three years, but we hope our information has been helpful to the community of donors who use our website to assist their contribution decisions. 

Video of the Week 

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video that features Melinda Kotzian, CEO, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (a BBB Accredited Charity) that seeks to find a cure and eradicate mesothelioma as a life-ending disease through its collaboration with patients and families, physicians, advocates and researchers. 

Recent Reports 

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