LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As generous Kentucky residents try to find ways to help the victims of last weekend's violent storms, the Better Business Bureau has some advice on how to avoid donation scams.
At this time, the Kentucky Governor’s office requests that donations be sent or taken to the following address:
Mayfield-Graves County Fairgrounds, 1004 KY-121, Mayfield, KY 42066
Needed items include: water, flash lights, head lamps, batteries, work gloves, new socks, new undergarments, blankets, coats, warm clothes, shoes, and toiletries.
Gov. Andy Beshear has established the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund to help those affected by the tornados and the severe weather system. Go to https://secure.kentucky.gov/formservices/Finance/WKYRelief to donate.
Donations can also be sent to the Kentucky Red Cross at this link (https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation.html/), by texting REDCROSS to 90999, or by calling 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669).
United Way says it will pledge 100% of donations it receives through the disaster recovery fund to help support communities affected by the Dec. 11 tornadoes. You can donate by visiting uwky.org/tornado.
As with any charitable giving, BBB recommends verifying the charity of your choice by visiting BBB’s Give.org. By doing so, you can be rest assured that the organization meets BBB’s Standards for Charity Accountability before you make a donation.
Crowdfunding campaigns have already been set up for Kentuckians in need, and more campaigns will be created in the days ahead. When it comes to crowdfunding, BBB offers the following tips to ensure safe giving:
- 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.
Here are some other wise giving tips from BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance.
- Thoughtful Giving: Visit Give.org to verify if a charity meets the BBB Standards for Charitable Accountability. Take the time to find out how the organization plans to address either immediate or long-term needs. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities.
- How Will Donations Be Used? Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a disaster or tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.
- Newly-Created v. Established Organizations: An established charity will more likely have the capacity and experience to address the situation quickly and also have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly-formed organization may be well-meaning, but will be difficult 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.
- Give Money Rather Than Goods. Donating money is the quickest way to help and provides charities the flexibility to channel resources to impacted areas.
- Be Wary of 100 Percent Claims. Watch out for claims that 100 percent of donations will assist victims and/or their families. The organization is probably still incurring administrative and fundraising expenses, even if it is using other funds to cover these costs.
- Online Caution: Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar 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.
- Tax Deductibility: Not all organizations collecting funds in the U.S. to assist after a tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these other entities, but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual or family are generally not deductible in the U.S. as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity. You can check a U.S. organization’s tax status with the IRS.
- Identify Celebrity Fundraising Plans. Before donating to a celebrity’s fundraising effort, look beyond the fame. See if they identify plans for intended use of funds or whether they are collaborating with a well-established charity.
- What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund? Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, if collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA, or lawyer this will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs).
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