Gulf Crisis: The Better Business Bureau Cautions Donors and Volunteers

Chicago, IL–(ENEWSPF)– In the wake of any disaster many reach for their checkbooks to donate money and aid toward rescue organizations. The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance (WGA) cautions that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is unlike previous disasters and offers specific advice to potential donors and volunteers.

Anytime there is a major natural disaster, be it home or abroad, there are a few things you can count on. They include the generosity of individuals to donate time and money to help victims and the appearance of inexperienced and in some cases fraudulent charities. Any individual preparing to make a donation needs to be aware about avoiding fraud as well as ensuring the money goes to experienced relief organizations.

"Businesses, communities, individuals and wildlife have been seriously impacted by the spill and the need for assistance is great," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Although tens of thousands of individuals are already involved in the oil spill response, the constraints in the clean up effort limit what charities can do with your money or how you can volunteer."

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance recommends that donors and volunteers consider the following before offering time or money to disaster relief efforts:

  • Beware of Inexperienced Organizations. New non-profits and relief organizations spring up following any major disaster. While these groups might have good intentions, new charities responding to a crisis may lack the resources, experience and management needed to be effective. Ideally, look for established organizations with environmental expertise or previous experience aiding Gulf communities and that meet BBB standards.
  • Know Where Your Money Is Going. Find out how the organization plans to spend funds for Gulf relief and related activities. If a charity is raising money for other groups, you may want to consider "avoiding the middleman" and give directly to those performing the work.
  • Research Before You Donate. Visit www.bbb.org/charity first to verify that the charities are Accredited by the BBB and meet its 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
  • Check If You Are Trained to Volunteer. If you’re looking to get your hands dirty, you may be out of luck unless you’re certified to handle hazardous materials or have received training to care for injured wildlife. Numerous charities with volunteer programs ask that you register with them so that they can assess your skills and place you appropriately when openings arise.
  • Do Not Feel Pressure to Donate Now. The Gulf region will be suffering from the effects of the oil spill for years to come and there will be opportunities for donors to step in and help in the future. If you can’t find a cause you can get behind right now, plan to revisit your donation in the coming months. 

The websites of the following national charities describe activities that address the oil spill. This list only includes charities that meet the BBB WGA’s Standards for Charity Accountability. Click on each of the names to access a BBB charity report on the organization:

American Bird Conservancy Defenders of Wildlife
Ducks Unlimited
EarthShare
Environmental Defense Fund
Friends of the Earth
Greenpeace Fund
International Fund for Animal Welfare
National Audubon Society
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council
Nature Conservancy
Oceana

For more information on charities or making wise donating decisions, visit www.bbb.org/charity 

As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.