Safely donating to weather crisis victims
From the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia:
As Virginia and other parts of the country are dealing with the aftermath of last week’s harsh winter weather, one million people still remain without power in five states, and 8 million in Texas are without water. Many generous people are seeking ways to help those in need.
As always, we encourage donors to visit Give.org to verify if the charity they choose to support meets the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
Instead of clicking on links that others may send you in texts and social media, consider making a cash donation through the charity’s own website. In an emergency situation, this is likely the fastest way of sending help. In-kind donations of supplies may be well intended, but can sometimes be difficult and costly to manage if the charity does not already have an established means to help distribute them to those in need.
Shelter and Emergency Centers
To help locate available shelters, the two following organizations are a good place to start as they have local affiliates around the country:
- American Red Cross (BBB Accredited Charity) has announced they are providing assistance across multiple states. The Red Cross says that in a number of areas it’s also providing cots, blankets, water and ready-to-eat meals when requested. For more information, see: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/2021/red-cross-responds-to-winter-storms.html.
- Salvation Army (BBB Accredited Charity) is providing warming centers in some areas. Check with local affiliates for more information about specific assistance available in particular communities. https://disaster.salvationarmyusa.org/news/2021/02/13/the-salvation-army-midland-division-warming-centers-are-open-in-missouri-and-illinois-
- Feeding America (BBB Accredited Charity) is active in providing groceries to those in need. One can access a directory of food banks via this link: https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank
There are already crowdfunding campaigns being set up for those in need on sites like GoFundMe. While some may be drawn to providing direct assistance to individuals, we offer the following tips:
- Give to people and organizations you know. It is safest to give to crowdfunding postings of people you personally know. If that is not possible, consider a posting that is being managed by an established charitable organization that can be checked out.
- Not all crowdfunding sites operate alike. Some crowdfunding platforms do a better job of vetting postings and projects that appear on their site than others. Review the site’s description of its procedures. If they do take precautions, they generally announce that fact loudly to help encourage giving.
- See if the posting describes how funds will be used. Vague descriptions of how the collected funds will be used should also be a yellow caution light. Thoughtful collections will take the added step of identifying and verifying needs before money is raised.
- Don’t assume pictures represent an official connection to the person or family identified. Unfortunately, some crowdfunding postings may be using pictures of needy individuals without their permission. As a result, you can’t assume an official connection. Again, each site has different rules on what they allow.
- Your contribution may not be deductible as a charitable gift. If a crowdfunding posting is claiming to be helping a specific named individual or family, donors in the U.S. generally cannot take a federal income tax deduction even if the individual or family is in need. See IRS Publication 526, for more information on this subject.