The text arrived at 7:21 a.m. The message was simple: “I’m sure you have been moved by the recent events in Boston and now Texas over the last few days … my heart is heavy.”
At first glance, the phone number on the text appeared foreign, but after opening it, I recognized it was from a friend, Jennifer, in Meridian. Her petition and plea was to give blood, not money. She concluded: “I hope you will take some time to donate this precious gift of life, if you can.”
With the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas this morning, as well as the tragic explosions at the Boston Marathon earlier this week, many consumers will be looking for ways to help friends, families and others in need.
Unfortunately, events such as these bring out scammers and fraudulent businesses seeking to prey on the charitable and giving. BBB advises consumers to give to charities listed with BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
American Red Cross is an Accredited Charity with WGA and accepting donations at www.Redcross.org/charitable-donations.
Tips for giving:
- Thoughtful Giving. Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort.
- Help spread the Wise Giving Word. Remind your friends and family to be cautious about giving requests in the wake of such a tragedy and ask them to spread the word as well.
- What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund? Some families may set up their own assistance funds. Such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third-party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and make sure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs.)
- Online Cautions. Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to give personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
- Financial Transparency. After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to give 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 the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.
- Newly Created or Established Organizations. This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely be able to address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well-managed.
- Tax Deductibility. Not all organizations collecting funds to aid this tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these other entities but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific person/family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.