News & Updates


Wise Giving Wednesday: Similar Sounding Charity Names

Feb 20, 2019

It is common practice for a charity’s name to include the disease, problem or issue that the charity seeks to address. So, for example, charities that address animal issues, diabetes, or the homeless, are likely to include those words as part of their name. From a marketing perspective, it helps donors and others know what type of charity is approaching them. On the other hand, for certain causes, this can result in a crowded field with hundreds of organizations including one or more similar words as part of their name.

Most of the time this name similarity problem is unintentional and just reflects the popularity of the charity’s cause. There are circumstances, however, where questionable organizations seek to confuse donors who may not recognize that the charity soliciting them is not the same one they have in mind. In BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s experience, this problem is particularly acute for charities that address cancer and veterans issues. 

In recent years, U.S. government agency enforcement actions alerted the public to the potential for misleading charity appeals. In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission, state Attorneys General and state charity regulators announced their “Donate With Honor” initiative  to crackdown on questionable appeals claiming to help veterans or active duty service members. In 2015, a similar combined press event was held by the Federal Trade Commission and state charity regulators against three cancer charities that engaged in deceptive practices.

To help avoid donor confusion on name similarity, here are some suggestions:

Look at the name carefully. This may seem like an obvious point to avoid charity name confusion, but we sometimes are not as careful as we could be because of other demands on our time and attention.

Address verification. Don’t assume the charity is located in the city and/or state appearing on the return envelope in a direct mail appeal. For large mailings, it is common for charities to use a different address, such as a P.O. Box, to help provide security and ensure prompt depositing of contributions. So, if you are just using the address to verify the identity of the charity, you may be mistaken.

Visit the Charity’s Website. This can help you verify the organization’s location, current activities, and if you have potentially confused it with another group.

Be Wary of Pressure to Donate Immediately. Excessive pressure in fundraising can unfortunately also be used as a means of reducing your likelihood of checking out the charity before donating.

Check with third-party evaluators.  Visit the charity reports on and at your BBB to verify if it meets the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

Video of the Week

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video featuring Nancy Kelly, MHS, Executive Director of Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) (a BBB Accredited Charity) which seeks to improve the availability and quality of health care through education, training and professional development of the health workforce in resource-scarce countries. The organization reports that each year, health professionals complete more than 500 HVO volunteer assignments, contributing over 7,000 days of volunteer service at more than 80 HVO project sites around the world. 

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