Whenever there is a major natural disaster you can count on the generosity of Canadians to donate time and money to help victims, and the other is the appearance of poorly run and in some cases fraudulent charities.
People need to be concerned about avoiding fraud, and to make sure their money goes to competent relief organizations that can handle the unique challenges in disaster areas.
BBB offers tips to help people decide where to direct donations and ensure that their money provides the most benefit to victims of disasters:
When in doubt, check it out. When an unfamiliar organization asks you for a donation, don’t give without gathering details about the charity, the nature of its programs and its use of funds. Visit the Canadian Revenue Agency at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tax/charities for a list of registered charities in Canada. To search for licensed third-party telemarketers in BC who are making calls on behalf of legitimate charities, please visit the Business Practices & Consumer Protection Authority website at www.bpcpa.ca.
Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground continuing presence in the region. Due to the difficult conditions in Myanmar, unless the charity already has staff inside the country, it will be difficult for new aid workers to attain visas and ultimately accomplish aid assistance in the country. Check out organizations at www.InterAction.org—the nation’s largest coalition of international relief organizations—to verify which aid organizations are currently active in Myanmar.
Find out who benefits and what type of aid will be provided. The immediate needs are often food, water, shelter, transportation and clean-up efforts. Often long-term goals cannot be met because organizations may not be permitted to operate for an appropriate amount of time.
Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist victims.
Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.
Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups that are active in the region. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations that are already active in the region. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the affected region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.
Be cautious when giving online. Take precaution when responding to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. Emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In response to the tsunami disaster, there were concerns raised about many Web sites and new organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims.
Watch out for charity fraud. Legitimate charities do not demand donations; they willingly provide written information about their programs, finances or how donations are used; and they never insist you provide your credit card number, bank account number or any other personal information.
Tax receipts. If you are looking to make a tax deductible donation, only a registered charity has received a Registration Number from the Canada Revenue Agency and can issue donation receipts for gifts.
Learn more about giving to charities by visiting us at www.bbb.org.