Wise Giving Wednesday: Donating to California Shooting Victims

By H. Art Taylor
President & CEO BBB Wise Giving Alliance
Jan 25, 2023

In the past week, we learned the heartbreaking news that eleven people were killed in a mass shooting that took place at a Monterey Park, California dance studio that was celebrating the Lunar New Year. This was followed by an unrelated shooting incident days later when seven people were killed at a mushroom farm at Half Moon Bay, California. For those seeking to help the victims and their families, we are providing the following tips about donating in response to tragedy-related philanthropy.


Will the appeal respect families of victims?
As charitable organizations and/or crowdfunding postings raise funds to help, they also should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them. Don’t assume there is an official connection if photos are displayed.

How will contributions be used?
Be cautious about vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, is money being collected for funeral expenses or other family needs? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that contributed funds quickly collected after a tragedy will be distributed or spent just as quickly. Be mindful of public announcements that describe family assistance to help avoid donating to duplicative efforts.

Are donations tax deductible?
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.  

What should be considered in crowdfunding requests?
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 after a tragedy, others might not. If unsure, review the posting procedures described on the crowdfunding site and find out about transaction fees and other specifics.

How do you verify charity trustworthiness?
Tragedies can generate donation requests from a variety of organizations seeking to help victims of violence or advocate on related issues. As always, we remind donors to check out charities by visiting Give.org to verify if the charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability (i.e., a BBB Accredited Charity). Be cautious about newly created groups that will be difficult to check out.


Heart of Giving Podcast

This week’s Heart of Giving Podcast is part of the special series "Made by the Bay" sponsored by the Tipping Point Community to feature the work of people in the San Francisco Bay Area, working for the betterment of their community. This week BBB WGA’s guest is Maritza Maldonado, Executive Director at Amigos de Guadalupe Center for Justice and Empowerment, an organization in San Jose, California, that advances the conditions for learning by helping local families meet their basic needs.


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.


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