Wildfires are back in the news on the West Coast. They’re destroying homes and businesses in California, where many residents are still rebuilding from past fires while dealing with the stress and anxiety of COVID-19.
Those who want to help by financial means should carefully check out charities before making donations. Many agencies are poised to send help where it’s needed, but not all are vetted by local Better Business Bureaus or the Wise Giving Alliance.
Here’s how to decide where to direct your donations:
Rely on respected experts to evaluate a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or social media personalities, because they may not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. BBB Charity Reviews are available for more than 11,000 charities, indicating whether a charity complies with BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
Be wary of claims that 100% of donations assist victims. All charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee.
Be cautious when giving online to unfamiliar charities. Be wary of spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. After recent natural disasters, many websites and organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims turned out to be scams. Find out if the charity has a presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers into the area to provide assistance.
Be cautious about crowdfunding. These sites do very little to check out the individuals seeking funds after a disaster, and donors may not be able to verify whether the organization or individual seeking funds is trustworthy.
Give, but give wisely. Go to bbb.org to get a BBB Charity Review or call 888-996-3887.