BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) – BBB serving Louisville, southern Indiana and western Kentucky recognizes that in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York, many people will want to help in any way possible, including donating to fundraisers for survivors and families of victims.
These days, however, scammers often take advantage of tragedies and moments of vulnerability by tricking donors.
Additionally, campaigns can be set up by well-meaning but ill-equipped individuals who are unable to deliver the promised relief efforts.
BBB offers the following tips for safe giving and avoiding scammers:
1. Visit Give.org to check if a charity meets BBB standards for charitable accountability. Take the time to find out how the organization plans to meet immediate or long-term needs.
2. Crowdfunding: Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites take precautions to carefully screen, vet, and manage posts, while others don’t. See the crowdfunding site for more information on posting procedures, transaction fees, and other details. It’s always safer to contribute to people you know personally.
3. How will donations be used? Beware of vague appeals that do not identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help the families of the victims? Additionally, unless otherwise stated, donors will assume that funds raised quickly in the wake of a disaster or tragedy will be expended just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the funds raised will be used.
4. Newly created or established organisations: this is a personal choice, but an established charity will more likely have the capacity and experience to deal with the situation quickly and also have a track record that can be assessed . A newly formed organization may be well intentioned, but will be difficult to verify and may not be well managed.
5. Give money instead of goods. Donating money is the fastest way to help and gives charities the flexibility to channel resources to affected areas.
6. Beware of 100% claims. Beware of claims that 100% of donations will help victims and/or their families. Although it is possible for a charity to use other funds to cover administrative and fundraising expenses, this does not mean that these costs do not exist. See if the call includes an explanation of how this percentage is achieved.
7. Online Disclaimer: Never click on links to unknown charity websites or in text messages or emails. These may direct you to a similar website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information, or may download harmful malware to your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media have already been approved.
8. Identify celebrity fundraising plans. Before donating to a celebrity’s fundraising effort, look beyond the celebrity. See if they identify any plans for the intended use of the funds or if they are working with a well-established charity.
9. Financial Transparency: After fundraising for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide accountability for how the funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can discover it without having to wait for audited financial statements to become available in the future.
10. Government Registration: Approximately 40 of the 50 states in the United States require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the state attorney general’s office) before solicit charitable donations. If an organization claims to be a charity and is not registered with the relevant government agency, that is a red flag. Although registration with a government agency does not mean that the government recommends or endorses the charity, it does mean that the group has filed the appropriate required documents.
11. Respect for victims and their families: Crowdfunding organizations or publications that raise funds must obtain permission from families to use the names and/or photographs of victims of disaster or tragedy.
12. What happens if a family creates their own assistance fund? Some families may decide to create their own relief fund. Remember that these funds cannot be set up as charities.
13. Advocacy Organizations: Tragedies that involve violent acts with firearms may also generate demands from various advocacy organizations that deal with the use of firearms. Donors can also support these efforts, but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax-exempt as charities. Also watch out for newly created defense groups which will be difficult to verify.
14. Tax Deductibility: All organizations that raise funds in the United States to help after a tragedy are not tax-exempt as charities under 501(c)(3) ‘Internal Revenue Code. Donors may support these other entities, but keep this in mind if they wish to claim a deduction for federal income tax purposes. Also, contributions that are restricted to donors to help a specific person or family are generally not deductible in the United States as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity. You can check the tax status of a US organization with the IRS. If you are unsure whether your donation qualifies for a tax credit, contact the Charities Directorate at 1-800-267-2384. You can also find information about organizations that can issue official donation receipts.
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