St. Louis, Mo., April 25, 2011 –
Two days after tornaodes swept across the St. Louis area, damaging hundreds of homes and shutting St. Louis Lambert International Airport, residents and businesses are assessing damage and beginning to put their lives back together.
The Red Cross and other established charities are seeking donations to help with disaster response. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) in St. Louis advises donors to be cautious because fraudulent charities often crop up to take advantage of their sympathy for disaster victims.
“The pictures and videos of victims of Friday night's storm make many St. Louisans want to help out with donations or to volunteer their labor," said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Established charities are responding with food, shelter and other assistance. But other, less competent and in some cases, fraudulent, charities also are seeking donations. Donors want to be sure their money goes to well-run relief organizations that are equipped to handle the unique challenges of providing assistance in a disaster zone.”
The best way to help is to donate money to a reputable humanitarian organization like the American Red Cross, a BBB Charity Seal holder. The American Red Cross has a long history of responding to local, national, and international disasters.
The BBB offers the following tips to help you decide where to direct donations:
- Rely on respected experts to evaluate a charity. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers, because they may not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The BBB provides a Wise Giving Guide to charities at www.bbb.org/charity. The guide shows which charities are accredited by the BBB and whether they meet the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
- Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fund-raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee.
- Be cautious when giving online to unfamiliar charities. Be wary of spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. After the tsunami disaster in 2004 and the earthquake in Haiti last year, many websites and organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims turned out to be scams.
- Find out if the charity has a presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers into the area to provide assistance. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what it can do to address immediate needs.
- Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. You may want to avoid the middleman and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Check out the ultimate recipients of the donations to ensure that the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.
- Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations may not be appropriate. Unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid, the donations may be more of a burden than a help. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.
- For more information about charities or to get a BBB Business Review, check with the BBB at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-3300, email@example.com
, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-645-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org