In the wake of the devastating tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, people from every corner of the nation and beyond are coming together to support the victims, their families, and everyone affected by the gunman's actions. Generous donors worldwide have already contributed millions of dollars to legitimate organizations focused on providing relief and aid to residents in the rural South Texas city. As more information about this tragedy comes to light, many people may be searching for a way to help in any way they can, often in the form of charitable giving.
Better Business Bureau appreciates, encourages and celebrates the generosity of charitable donations given freely and without reward. However, it is crucial to be cautious to whom and through what manner donations are given to ensure that the funds provided are going to those in need and not lining the pockets of fraudsters.
In environments charged with emotion in the aftermath of man-made or natural disasters and catastrophes, con artists lie in wait to enact their schemes. Stealing photos of victims posted online, scammers create false fundraising initiatives, often by claiming an attachment to the family that is entirely fabricated and enticing donations by using strong emotional appeals. While many crowdfunding platforms have policies designed to vet and remove fraudulent claims, some are not vetted carefully, and others have less robust capabilities to detect deception.
To ensure your donation goes to a worthy cause and is used responsibly, BBB recommends donors follow these guidelines provided by the Wise Giving Alliance.
How will donations be used? Watch for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, donors often assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a disaster or tragedy will be spent quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.
Newly-created or established organizations? This is a personal giving choice. An established charity will more likely have the capacity and the experience to address the situation quickly and have a track record that donors can evaluate. A newly-formed organization may be well-meaning however, it may be challenging to check out and may not be well managed. News reports may help identify responding charities but are not a guarantee that the organizations will use donations effectively. Visit Give.org to look up a charity.
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. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media have already been vetted.
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.
Advocacy Organizations. Tragedies that involve violent acts with firearms can also generate requests from a variety of advocacy organizations that address gun use. Donors can support these efforts as well but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax-exempt as charities. Read the description of the organization charity carefully and understand its mission before giving. Also, watch out for newly-created advocacy groups that are difficult to check out.
Thoughtful Giving. Visit Give.org to verify that a charity meets the BBB Standards for Charitable Accountability. Take the time to determine how the organization plans to address either an immediate or long-term need. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities. To learn more about how you can donate with confidence, visit Give.org.
ABOUT BBB: The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas, which was founded in 1950 and serves 105 counties across Texas.