Wise Giving Wednesday: Donating for California Flood Relief

By H. Art Taylor
President & CEO BBB Wise Giving Alliance
Jan 11, 2023

Parts of California are experiencing heavy storms, flooding, mudslides, and rising rivers that could cause damages exceeding $1 billion. Some areas are under evacuation orders. As many will be motivated to help those impacted, BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following advice to help make informed giving decisions.

Photos may not mean permission.

Charitable organizations or crowdfunding campaigns raising funds should get permission to use photos and/or names of families/individuals impacted by the flooding. Don’t assume there is an official connection just because photos are displayed.

Relief activities should be identified.

Be cautious about vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, is money being collected for food, clothing, temporary shelter, or other family needs? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected immediately after a tragedy will be distributed or spent just as quickly.

Deductibility may not apply.

Contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible in the U.S. as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity. See IRS Publication 526, page 7, for more information on this subject. 

Crowdfunding differs from site to site.

Crowdfunding has become so popular that it is not unusual for fundraising to start within hours after a tragedy has occurred. Please keep in mind that while some crowdfunding sites take precautions in carefully screening, vetting, and managing postings during a disaster, others might not. If unsure, review the posting procedures described on the crowdfunding site and find out about transaction fees and other specifics.

Transparency timing is important.

After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until financial statements are available sometime in the future.

The following organizations are BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability) and currently announce on their websites that they are collecting funds to assist with California storm relief efforts. Additional BBB Accredited Charities will be added as we learn about flood assistance efforts.

American Red Cross – California Relief Activities

Direct Relief – California Relief Activities

GlobalGiving - California Relief Activities

Operation USACalifornia Relief Activities


Heart of Giving Podcast

This week’s Heart of Giving Podcast features an interview with one of the BBB Luminare Award for Service winners. In 2022, BBB Wise Giving Alliance partnered with the BBB of Great West & Pacific to honor individuals in the service area of this BBB (Alaska, Central Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Western Wyoming) who demonstrate compassion, volunteerism, and community leadership. This episode interviews Brad Dudding, the Chief Impact Officer at The Bail Project, an organization that combats mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system - one person at a time.


Recent Reports

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 www.give.org/charity-inquiry if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

TAGS: Donations , Charity
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