BBB offers giving advice after a tragedy

The emotional toll of the mass shootings at the Uvalde, Texas elementary school and at the Buffalo, New York supermarket will inspire many to make donations to help the impacted families.

Better Business Bureau urges concerned donors to take appropriate steps to avoid questionable appeals that seek to take advantage of this generosity.

“Take the time to verify a charity, and GoFundMe pages before donating. It’s unfortunate that scammers would take advantage of such tragedies when a nation is in mourning, but it doesn’t surprise us at all,” said Lynn Conner, President/CEO of the Sacramento Better Business Bureau.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. Here are BBB WGA’s tips for trusted giving:

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Thoughtful Giving: Visit Give.org to verify if a charity meets the BBB Standards for Charitable Accountability.

Crowdfunding: Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites take precautions in carefully screening, vetting, and managing postings, others might not. Review the crowdfunding site to find out about posting procedures, transaction fees and other specifics.

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 disaster or tragedy will be spent just as quickly.

Newly-Created v. Established Organizations: This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the capacity and experience to address the situation quickly and also 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.

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Give Money Rather Than Goods. Donating money is the quickest way to help and provides charities the flexibility to channel resources to impacted areas.

Online Caution: Never click on links to unfamiliar charity websites or in text messages or email. These may take you to a look-alike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information, or may download harmful malware onto your computer.

Financial Transparency: After funds are raised for a tragedy, 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 so that anyone can find out without having to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.

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.

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Respect for Victims and Their Families: Organizations or crowdfunding postings raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names and/or any photographs of victims of the disaster or tragedy.

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.

Tax Deductibility: Not all organizations collecting funds in the U.S. to assist after a 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.

For more information on BBB Wise Giving Alliance visit give.org.