A guide to charitable giving after a tragedy or natural disaster

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We've all seen the heartbreaking firestorms sweeping Australia and FOX40 is looking for the best ways to help.

The Better Business Bureau has a guide to charitable giving that will help you learn where your money does the most good and how to spot red flags for shady charities.

Sadly, scammers often take advantage of these moments of vulnerability to deceive donors. In addition, there are often campaigns set up by well-meaning individuals who may or may not be directly connected to the tragedy.

Alma Galvan from BBB has the following tips for those who want to help out:

1. Thoughtful Giving: Visit Give.org to check charity ratings and verify if a charity meets the BBB Standards for Charitable Accountability.
2. Crowdfunding: Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a tragedy or a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support.
3. Government Registration: About 40 of the 50 states in the U.S. require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag. If an organization is claiming to be a charity and they aren't registered with the CRA, that's a red flag. In Australia, check out the registry of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.
4. How Will Donations Be Used?: Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.
5. What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund?: Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, if collected money is received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA, or lawyer this will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs).



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