The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the national charity monitoring arm of the Better Business Bureau, warned consumers to be aware of the different circumstances that often emerge in tragedy-related philanthropy.
“Certainly this tragedy will inspire people to give,” H. Art Taylor, president/CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance, said in a statement. “Americans are emotionally drawn and will respond to requests to help the Sandy Hook community, advocacy groups and mental health charities among others, and while they should be on the lookout for questionable solicitors and scammers, people may be less clear about the complicated legal character of their gifts.”
BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers “10 Tips for Giving with Confidence:”
2. State Government Registration — About 40 states require charities to register with a state government agency before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.
3. Respecting Victims and Their Families — Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them.
4. How Will Donations Be Used? — Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. 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, make sure collected monies are 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.
7. 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 provide 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 already have been vetted.
8. Financial Transparency — After funds are raised, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites.
9. Newly Created or Established Organizations — This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly 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.
10. Tax Deductibility — Not all organizations collecting funds to assist this tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors need to keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. Contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.
For more, visit www.give.org or www. bbb.org.